Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Argentina politics: Unrest tests the president

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on January 13, 2011

by The Economist Intelligence Unit, January 10th, 2011.

The period of relative calm that followed the death of former president Néstor Kirchner, the husband of President Cristina Fernández, ended abruptly with a surge in social unrest in December. The episode has highlighted that all is not well in Argentina, despite years of generous public spending and fast-paced economic growth. It has also presented Ms Fernández with her first major challenge since her husband’s death in October, and raises concerns about governability in the run-up to this year’s presidential election.

Early in December, around 200 squatter families (mostly immigrants from Bolivia and Paraguay) demanding public housing moved into Parque Indoamericano, the second biggest park in the city of Buenos Aires, which is located in the poor neighbourhood of Villa Soldati. Subsequent violent clashes between the police and the squatters, and also between squatters and residents of Villa Soldati, resulted in four deaths. It also triggered a cabinet reshuffle and the creation of a new Ministry of Security.

In an unrelated but still worrisome incident, a few weeks later there were violent clashes between train passengers and policemen when the passengers were not allowed to board trains due to a protest led by train workers.

With the presidential election set for October, government officials have linked such unrest to the beginning of the electoral campaign. In particular, they have accused a former president and possible opposition presidential candidate, Eduardo Duhalde, of trying to destabilise the government, though there is no evidence to support the claim. The issue could become increasingly politicised and trigger more disputes between the government and rivals to Ms Fernández, although she has yet to reveal whether she will run for re-election. (continue reading… )


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