Cristina Kirchner’s Choice

Bolstered by economic stability, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner’s easy re-election confirms that she can govern a complex, contentious, and at times self-destructive society without her husband, Néstor. The question now is what kind of leader she will want to be in today’s more difficult domestic and international context.

BUENOS AIRES – Bolstered by Argentina’s economic stability and widespread sympathy for her widowhood, President Cristina Kirchner’s easy re-election has confirmed that she can, indeed, govern a complex, contentious, and at times self-destructive society without her husband, Néstor. His presidency paved the way for hers, but she is a leader in her own right. The question now is what kind of leader she will want to be in today’s more difficult domestic and international context.

The Kirchners lifted Argentina out of the deep crisis of 2001, presiding over GDP growth rates similar to those of China. They partly restored Argentina’s social and political fabric, which had been weakened by the brutal adjustments made during that crisis, which triggered a president’s fall from power, default on the country’s debts, and a dramatic decline in living standards that left more than half of the population below the poverty line. Their management of the economy, which included a deluge of subsidies, reduced unemployment and poverty.

The opposition underestimates the Kirchners’ achievements, arguing that the international context, particularly high commodity prices – and thus strong export revenues – bailed them out. While that is true, high export prices alone were no guarantee for success.

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