The Death of Argentine President Néstor Kirchner and a Political Dynasty
4:18 PM, Nov 1, 2010 • By VANESSA NEUMANN
In 2007, a Venezuelan businessman and amateur rally car driver who lived in Key Biscayne named Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson was caught by Buenos Aires customs officers with $800,000 in cash in his suitcase when he alighted from a jet rented by Néstor Kirchner’s government. The story quickly spread that he was an agent of the Chávez government and the money was one of several friendly donations Chávez made to Cristina’s presidential campaign. Later, Antonini Wilson claimed there had been another suitcase on the plane containing $4,200,000, a gift to Cristina’s campaign from the PDVSA, Venezuela’s government-run oil company, which he said was confirmed by members of Kirchner’s cabinet and the vice president of PDVSA in Argentina. Accepting donations from a foreign government is a crime under Argentine law, but the Kirchners spun the scandal as nonsense overblown by an “imperialist” U.S. government opposed to the Kirchner agenda of social progress.
The next presidential elections are in 2011, and Néstor was presumed to be the Partido Justicialista candidate, even as word of his heart trouble compelled the party to consider other candidates, including the incumbent Cristina. But without her husband’s adept and indefatigable behind-the-scenes politicking, the sharks are circling Cristina. Now that Néstor is gone, former allies of his such as Daniel Scioli, governor of the powerful Buenos Aires province, may well step into leadership positions.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner may be down, but it is a mistake to count her out, for she has already started sending signals that she is not in a conciliatory mood. Faced with the option of hardening her kirchnerista stance or forging new alliances, she has chosen the former. By choosing to have her husband’s state funeral in the Casa Rosada, rather than the Congress as is customary, she deprived her political rivals of an opportunity to share the limelight and mourn before a bigger audience. She told several opposition leaders not to bother coming.
The biggest threat to Cristina de Kirchner’s presidency, however, is no rival, but the soaring inflation, currently Argentina’s highest in two decades. If in the wake of Néstor’s death Cristina cannot ride the emotional outpouring for kirchnerismo all the way back into the Pink House, perhaps the Kirchners’ son, auspiciously named Máximo, will become the torch-bearer for his parents’ dynastic ambitions.