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ARGENTINA
Néstor´s legacy
Andrés Gaudin
11/4/2010
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Late former president left significant mark on Argentina´s human rights and foreign policy.

Néstor Kirchner´s sudden death of a heart attack on Oct. 27 left Argentina with a gaping political void. The former president had broad support and, according to polls, seemed a surefire win in the 2011 presidential election.

In his 2003-2007 term, Kirchner took the helm in the wake of a series of short, weak and often despised governments during the economic meltdown. During his five-year administration, he steered the country back to stability.

Kirchner rose to power as governor of his native province of Santa Cruz, where the wind-swept Patagonian plains are home to just 0.54 percent of the 40 million Argentines.

Lacking a party, Kirchner cashed in as a political outsider amid a distrusted political scene, creating his own support base with backing from social organizations, human rights groups and some of the labor movement.

Policies win over public
One of Kirchner´s boldest moves was breaking off from the International Monetary Fund, after years of living under the body´s suggested policies and as the nation was suffocating from years of unpaid debt. During his administration he paid the country´s entire debt to the IMF off early.

He also restored state control of the postal system, water company and airline, and in the end, pension funds, which had been privatized in previous governments, each one operating in a cloud of corruption.

Part of his roots in Peronist policies, Kirchner restored pension payments and subsidies to parents to the tune of US$100 per child.

His policies, including an aggressive campaign against dictatorship-era human rights violations and rooting out government corruption, won him broad support, so millions, particularly young people, filled Buenos Aires´ streets, many of whom walked tearfully to give a final goodbye to their former president.

Despite the fall of the 1976-83 dictatorship, many Argentines had to wait more than two decades before those responsible for the dirty war, in which 30,000 people were killed, to be brought to justice. Kirchner began the fight for justice by promoting the annulment of two amnesty laws that protected former military personnel from facing trial for their crimes. Now hundreds of ex-soldiers, officers and police who killed and tortured their fellow Argentines, and kidnapped their children, are in prison and hundreds of others are facing trial.

Kirchner also fought for human rights and anti-discrimination in his government, a task that was continued by his wife and current President Cristina Fernández, who signed a law this year that legalizes same-sex unions.

Argentina veered from US economic policies during Kirchner´s government, standing in the way of sweeping trade accords such as the failed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which collapsed in 2005. Three years later, Kirchner led efforts for the creation of the South American Union of Nations or UNASUR, which he led until his death.

Powerful enemies
Kirchner´s policies, imaginably, brought him a growing number of enemies: multinational corporations, multilateral lenders and financiers, the Catholic Church and some media conglomerates.

On the afternoon of his death, Argentine bonds rallied in London and New York. Shares of media group Grupo Clarín soared 40 percent in London. On Wall Street, Nick Chamie, head of emerging markets research at RBC Capital Markets, said regarding Kirchner´s death: “It´s sad news but we view it as generally positive for Argentine asset prices.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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Millions of Argentines said their last goodbye to former President Néstor Kirchner. (Photo: www.jpbuenosaires.org)
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