I love politics. I love politics the way some people love movies or television. Only to me, politics are real. I have loved politics since I was a teenager. I don’t remember exactly when it was I began my love affair with them, but I suspect it was when Lyndon Johnson ran for President. I was mesmerized with the entire process. It was much more interesting than the Miss America contest, at least to me, young as I was. I was too fat for a bathing suit, although I loved the talent contest. I never wanted to be Miss America — never. The bathing suit thing was a real hangup. Besides, listening to all those senators was much more interesting, they really had something to say.
I never remember a time when I was not involved in politics at some level: national, city, state, and even neighborhood. I was always fascinated by how the machine moved and who moved it. It was like playing checkers.
Now I live here, in Argentina. I have lived here since 2004. I came here to dance Argentine tango, I came here because I fell in love with the Argentine culture. My life is completely different. Now, I live with much less, but I have much more: I sold everything I had, everything I had ever worked for: the house, the nice car, the truck.
I came with my computer, my dog, and my tango shoes to start my new life, and I have never regretted it. I live completely differently; my life is in Spanish, I spend in pesos. I am no longer the high-power, high-earning computer geek, I do what I can to earn a living: I rent two bedrooms in my apartment to people who come to dance tango, I teach tango, I do translations; I live like an Argentine, from day to day.
I am happy Obama is the president of the U.S., but to be honest, I am not really all that interested in U.S. politics anymore. They do not affect me on a daily basis. It is the politics of Argentina which affect me. They cause my daily expenses to go out of control; make life a little less secure.
Argentine politics are complex. Especially when you need to learn about them in another language. I don’t read the Wall Street Journal and Mary O’Grady to get my opinions. She would probably prefer to colonize Latin America and be done with it. The Economist is another; though maybe they don’t want to colonize Latin America, they certainly think that the Western world is the only world that knows how. (They certainly do, just look at the mess they created.)
I read both papers – Clarín and La Nación. I read Perfíl, Página 12 and my all time favorite, the magazine Noticias. Noticias is not afraid to come out and say what they really think about the government. Then there are the taxi drivers, they always have an opinion. I am a news junkie, I started watching Argentine TV news when I got here to better understand the accent and pick up the language. TN, AN, TeleFe, C5N. I watch them all. Little by little, I started to understand.
What was becoming obvious is that the media was not printing or broadcasting what was really going on. The emperor’s new clothes was becoming the reality of living in Argentina. The government would quote figures that were unreal. Prices were going higher and higher, yet the government said they were not. The signs were all around: the economy was going to “baja” and La Presidenta was saying how great things were.
Cristina and Nestor wanted to rule forever, they had this dynasty thing going on. Along with Hugo in Venezuela, they thought they had things figured out. It was amazing to me how a president would continually ignore the demands of the people. It is amazing to me how arrogant she and her husband are, and how they think they can get away with it.
Then things began to change. First Julio Cobos, the vice president, voted against her and voted with the campo, the farmers. It was a historic vote; amazing, when you stop to think about it. Rather than hold out the olive branch and take a step towards healing wounds, La Presidenta, raccoon eyes and all, chose to ignore the situation and the vice president. To this day, she has refused to speak to him, which has turned him into a hero. He is adored throughout the country for taking a stand on principle. He has continued to speak in favor of the people and go against the president and her policies.
Little by little, the support for the old Peronist party was falling away. We needed change here, the old way of doing business was not working. People here admired Obama and felt sorry for him having to deal with years of corruption. “We need an Obama.” is what they would say to me.
To preserve the dynasty, the President decided to move up the October elections to June, figuring the opposition would never have time to mount a reasonable campaign, and her husband, the other part of the dynamic duo decided to run for diputado. (Congressman of the lower house). The official excuse was we the people would be too bothered with a bad economy in October to deal with elections. Huh?
What they didn’t plan on was Francisco De Narváez, a wealthy businessman running a well organized campaign. He admired Obama. He spent time analyzing the Obama campaign and met with representatives of Obama’s campaign staff. He patterned his campaign much like Obama’s.
He is an interesting guy. He dropped out of school, yet Harvard Business School uses his company, Casa Tia, as a model. He owns many companies, including American TV. He is a Colombian by birth, but came to Argentina when he was 3, and is a naturalized citizen.
He united with Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, and Gabriela Michetti, who resigned as vice mayor and was also running for congress to campaign together with him. People were doubtful he would win. “They will pay people to vote for Kirchner.” is what my friends said. “They will falsify ballots. They will do what they have to to win.” I did not want Nestor Kirchner to win. I did not know anyone who did.
What was the turning point? Was it when Christina helped Hugo buy an Argentine business in Venezuela? That seemed to scare the hell out of the business community here. Finally. De Narváez asked people “Do you want to be like Chile and Brasil? Or do you want to be like Venezuela?” No one wants to be like Venezuela and the sale of Techint to the Venezuela government pushed the envelope. It was a wake up call.
Or maybe it was when they tried to make De Narváez look like an ephedrine drug lord because one of his 350 employees used one of his 350 company cell phones in his name to make drug buys. They were trying to get a hearing against him 2 weeks before the election. Jeesh! Even my cleaning lady saw through the dirty politics of that maneuver.
When all fails in dirty politics you can always use the flu. Five days before the election the government was going loco publicizing the swine flu. 50 times a minute we were warned about the perils of the "gripe porcina." Along with the travails of the gripe porcina were the dangers of voting. Explicit instructions were given on how to best vote during this horrid epidemic of flu.
What effect do you think this had? In my building, I overheard a conversation between several neighbors, debating whether or not to go vote because of the flu. I, la norteamericana, stepped in “You have to go vote.” I told them. “You have to. They are using the flu to manipulate you to not vote.” Can you imagine? All eyes were on me. “Look,” I told them, “This flu is bad, but last year in Argentina over 8,000 people died of the flu, this year there are 17. My HMO is not full of people. It is the same as always.”
My neighbors are shocked. How come they never think of these things? Too many years of living in the Bay Area. “You can check the numbers on Google.” I tell them. “They don’t want you to vote. Intelligent people are not going to vote for Kirchner.” They laugh. “Vote.” I tell them. “You have to vote.”
On Sunday at 6:00 pm, I turn on the television. At 6:02 all the stations except the American network are declaring Kirchner the winner. “Kirchner ganó” blinks across the screen. How disgusting. They are paid to do this. The government subsidizes the media and therefore on some levels controls it. It was a law that went into effect during the crisis to help when advertising revenues went down. Now it is used to control the media.
The returns are starting to come in. I am glued to the TV and channel surfing – TN, AN, TeleFE, C5N, Cronica, 26. The center of the country has gone completely for the opposition, or other parties, the same for Santa Cruz, home of the Kirchners. Then at 8:00 pm, De Narváez takes a lead that never lets up. I watch anxiously.
At 10:00 pm, it is obvious the President and her husband are getting the pants beaten off them. What is most amazing is the attitude of the news media; before, they were cautious, pro-government, but when the returns were overwhelming for Santa Fe, Cordoba, La Pampa, Santa Cruz, and Buenos Aires, one newscaster broke into a huge grin and said “Oh well, tomorrow we begin with a new country.” At that point the news media on all stations became no holds barred, and began to report the news, not the sanitized versions they were supposed to report. The Kirchner loss was a gain in other areas.
I stayed glued to the television. Like everyone else I wanted to know if the lead would stay and if there would be any word from the “K” factions. None came. De Narváez was out and visible, thanking his supporters. There were t-shirts that said “895 days until De Narváez is governor” others that said “Mauricio for President.” Daniel Scioli on the K side canceled his press conference. De Narváez never lost his lead. When they interviewed Macri, his comment was he hoped the president was watching.
Finally, at 2:00 am or so, the Pinguino (Kirchner, the "penguin" the former president, husband of La Presidenta) came out to concede. He said he would not contest the election. He said his wife would not step down. He was pretty boring, Argentines are not good losers. At 2:45 am I finally went to bed ,saturated with the news.
In the morning when I woke up, the headlines were blaring. De Narváez told the president he hoped that she reads the results of the election well . That remains to be seen. Nestor stepped down as President of the Peronist party.
The president does not have the majority anymore. But in her press conference this afternoon, when she had all the opportunity to once again hold out an olive branch, she harped on how it was only 2.5 points between her husband and De Narváez . Perhaps Cristina needs to be reminded of another president who was trounced in mid year elections and didn’t want to listen. His name was de la Rúa.