On December 10, Alberto Fernandez will become the new President of Argentina with Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as his vice President. All Arfgentineans know, however, that Cristina will call the shots and Alberto is a figurehead. Who is Cristina?
Nestor Kirchner (Cristina's late husband) succeeded Carlos Menem as leader of the Peronist Party and became President in 2003, and was succeded in offcie by his wife Cristina. The KIrchners were essentially Peronists, although since Peronism is based on charsimatic leaders, their ideology was dubbed "Kirchnerism" and seen by many as just one of the streams within the Peronist Camp. So everything comes down to Juan Domingo Peron, who was president of Argentina from 1946 to 1955 and from 1973 to 1974.
Peron was a career military who first came to power as part of a military coup and climbed in the power ladder until he became President. During his military career he was military attache to the Argentinean Embassy in Italy, where he met Benito Mussolini, whom he admired greatly. He also met in Europe Francisco Franco, the "Caudillo" of Spain with whom became close friends. Peron shared with Mussolini and Franco a Fascist ideology, that is the idea that individual freedoms ought to be subornidated to the good of the State. This is different than an economic philosophy, which can still be either Capitalist or Socialist. Charismatic leaders, however, do not let themselves be tied by specific ideologies and conduct the affairs of State guided by the principle of retaining power. That was the case with Peron. Any attempt to pigeonhole Peron as a "Leftist" or a "Right winger" will fail. An old joke in Argentine used to say that when Peron was riding his limousine, he would tell the driver "turn right but blink to the left". This philosophy of political opportunism is an integral part of Peron's legacy. All his successors as leaders of Peronism: Isabel Peron, Carlos Menem, Hector Campora, Nestor Kircher, Cristina Kirchner, etc, follow the same principles.
Of course, in addition to the motto that individual rights must be subordinated to the good of the State, we should add that the good of the State is subordinated to the good of the leader. Peron's (and his successors) attitude toward Jews was (and is) at the best ambiguous.
Peron, who was Minister of War under the Presidency of Edelmiro Farrell, was sympathetic to the Axis powers and strongly opposed siding with the allies. Argentina would eventually declare war on Germany 30 days before Nazi surrender. Peron also tried to manipulate the Jewish community by creating alternate pro-Peron Jewish organizations which contested the authority of the mainstream. The fact that Peron's power base was with the Workers' Unions made some Jews believe that he was a "leftist" and supported him.
After coming back from exile in 1973, Peron's attitude toward the State of Israel was as ambiguoug as his attitude toward Argentine Jews. Peron sided again and again with the anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and saw himself as part of the "Third World", siding with the likes of Tito, Arafat, and Castro.
Carlos Menem, who claimed the title of heir to Peron, continued his "third world" policies. It was during Menem's tenure as President that the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and the Jewish Community headquarters in Buenos Aires (AMIA) were bombed and the investigation on the attacks obstructed by the government. Under Menem, the Argentinean government also sold weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah.
Under Nestor Kirchner, the policies did not change. Kirchner sided again and again with Chavez in Venezuela, as well as Castro and Iran. One of the cases before the courts is that he (and Cristina) financed their poliitcal campaign with Iranian funds they received through Chavez.
When Nestor Kirchner retired from politics for health reasons, his wife Cristina was elected President. Cristina Kirchner's policies were a continuation of her husband's. She continued to side with Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. In fact, in a step-up from the obstruction of justice in the AMIA investigation, she signed an agreement with Iran which essentially guaranteed the Iranians that they would be part of the AMIA investigation in partnership with the Argentineans. When a (Jewish) prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Alberto Nissman, made public he was to present to Congress evidence of Cristina's collusion in the coverup of the AMIA bombing, he was found dead the night before he was to present the evidence. Cristina initially called the dead a suicide. Investigations in the years since have reclassified the dead as murder.
It is also interesting to observe that Cristina Kirchner, while in power, had a law passed by Congress that sitting elected officials could not be prosecuted. While the law originally was passed to protect Menem from prosecution, it also served to protect her.
And now Cristina is getting back to power, supported among others by a significant portion of the Jewish community which still believes she has the good of the people in mind. While nobody knows for sure what the policies of the government taking office on Dec 10 will be, the track record is clear. It is highly probable that the new Fernandez government will again side with Iran, Cuba and the Venezuela of Maduro (Chavez's successor). It is also highly probable that domestically she will promote confrontation and take an aggresive stand against her political opponents - maybe even reviving the Isabel Peron era policies of Death Squads.
230,000 Jews still live in Argentina. The Jewish Agency in Buenos Aires is already registering a significant uptick in Aliyah inquiries, and the JDC is also reporting the possibility of emigration of large number of Jews. While we need to wait to see if any of this trends will in fact materialize, chances are that they will, and the Jewish Federations of North America will be there to help and fund the work of ORT, the JDC and JAFI as they did during the economic collpase of 2002. It is what we do. It is who we are.