Celia Szusterman: The economy is thriving but he saw conspiracies everywhere

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The Independent Online

The death of Nestor Kirchner is a historic moment for Argentina as he had been running the country since 2003 in an authoritarian manner, without consultation with anybody and picking fights where they were completely unnecessary – against farmers, the press and the church. He was bad news for everybody, and he tended to see conspiracies everywhere.

When his wife, Cristina, became President, this was his decision. He pushed her forward as he did not want to become a lame duck leader if he ran for two consecutive terms and this would have ruled him out for another run in 2011. But he picked her cabinet, he took every decision of the government. As her government was formed, he was quoted as saying to the ministers: "Don't take any problems to Cristina, bring them to me."

He was the power behind the throne, in front of the throne and at the side of it as well. She wouldn't put it in so many words, but she would say that he was her lifelong companion and she never tried to distance herself from him. So it is that he has been blamed for the worst decisions that have been taken in Argentina since 2003.

He contracted power, rode roughshod over Congress and tried to manipulate the appointment of judges. The first fight that he picked when he was President was with the supreme court. He said it was going to be a fully professional, independent court but when it started to produce rulings that went against him, he started accusing it of being biased. He was finding conspiracies everywhere. He wouldn't tolerate any dissent, and anyone who did was labelled a traitor.

Argentina has the worst relations with its neighbours for a very long time. Kirchner is only liked by President Chavez of Venezuela. He has isolated Argentina from the rest of the world. The decision, which Cristina announced, that there was not going to be an ambassador appointed to the UK was just to show his displeasure with Britain for not starting negotiations with the Falklands.

In economic terms, Argentina is in a fantastic situation, like the rest of Latin America. This is because of two things: one is China and the demand for soya, and the other is Brazil, which buys all the cars that Argentina can produce. But if anything happened with those two countries, then there would be a major problem.

Celia Szusterman is a lecturer in Latin American studies at the University of Westminster

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