Beleaguered Argentine leader mulls reforms

Oct. 28, 2010 at 5:04 PM
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BUENOS AIRES, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is seeing her political and economic agenda determined by market reaction to the passing of her husband and former president Nestor Kirchner.

As news of the death of Kirchner broke Wednesday, markets rose in anticipation of what they expect to be a more investor-friendly policymaking by the beleaguered president, who was directed behind the scenes by her husband.

Kirchner's tough talk and disdain for capitalism earned the ire of Argentine big business as well as the small farmers and traders who constantly argued against what they condemned as the government's restrictive practices, gouging taxation and disregard for their interests.

Argentine business blamed Kirchner for actions and policies -- mostly manipulated behind-the-scenes -- that prevented Argentina from being granted re-entry into global capital markets.

In her first comments since Kirchner's death in the Patagonian resort of El Calafate, Fernandez said she would keep "fighting for all the Argentine people," a veiled reference to Kirchner's stance that supporters saw as egalitarian but critics found to be divisive. Analysts said the comment could also signal reformist changes in the government.

Kirchner's body will lie in state in the Government House in Buenos Aires and later be returned to native Santa Cruz.

Supporters rallied behind Fernandez. El Calafate Mayor Javier Belloni said Fernandez was full of strength and determined to continue the national regeneration project as envisioned by Kirchner.

Thousands of supporters paid homage to the memory of Kirchner as they gathered in Plaza de Mayo, next to Casa Rosada, the presidential and executive office.

Member countries of the Union of South American Nations, which elected Nestor Kirchner as the first secretary-general in May, declared three days of national mourning.

Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Alfredo Moreno said, "Nestor Kirchner was not only (former) president of Argentina, secretary-general of Unasur: he was also the son of a Chilean mother, from Punta Arenas, and we all know that many Chileans have made Argentina their home."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Kirchner's role in promoting multilateralism in Latin America through his various official posts.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent their condolences to the family Wednesday.

International Monetary Fund Director General Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Kirchner during his 2003-07 term as president "led Argentina through a period of great economic recovery in the throes of the 2001 financial crisis."

Critics of Kirchner said his interventions in recent years prevented Argentina from throwing off at least some of the legacy of its $100 billion sovereign default in 2002.

Kirchner was widely expected to run for re-election in 2011 as part of the presidential couple's strategy to keep power within the family and in a constitutional framework.

Market analysts said in published comments Fernandez was unlikely to seek re-election in 2011 following the death of her husband.

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