Magazine article Geographical

Geopolitical Hotspot: Argentina

Magazine article Geographical

Geopolitical Hotspot: Argentina

Article excerpt

In November in Buenos Aires, hundreds of thousands of people marched and banged pots to register their frustration with the Argentine government. But it wasn't only the capital that witnessed these protests. All over the Argentine Republic, protestors armed with pots, pans and other kitchen utensils have been making an extraordinary amount of noise in order to draw attention to their grievances. The protests and rallies were mainly peaceful; however, they serve as a reminder of a growing sense of unease about the fate of the world's eighth-largest nation.

Since the early 2000s, Argentina's population of 40 million has had a tough time. Recession, inflation, corruption, media controls and the cult of personality have all been raised as issues of concern. But what makes the recent protests significant is that more and more of the country's dwindling middle class are participating.

Over the past decade, many Argentines have seen their incomes decline markedly. Argentina may still have one of the world's largest economies (around 20th in terms of GDP), but its citizens are becoming frustrated with neoliberal economic restructuring and a president, Cristina Kirchner, who appears eager to secure an unprecedented third term in office.

Argentina remains haunted by a legacy of authoritarianism. During the 1970s, for example, the so-called Dirty War claimed the lives of thousands as a series of military regimes clamped down on anyone suspected of being 'un-Argentine'. Since the return of democracy in 1983, civilian presidents have sought to restructure the country, both economically and politically, but this process has brought hardship to its more vulnerable citizens.

President Kirchner was re-elected in 2011 with 54 per cent of the popular vote, following her succession and the death of her husband Nestor, the previous president. Under Argentina's constitution, a president can serve only two terms, but Kirchner's allies are seeking to reform the constitution, even as she herself has downplayed speculation that she will seek another term.

In the meantime, there is concern over Argentina's economy. Inflation is believed to be running at more than 20 per cent, although official figures put the rate at ten per cent. This disparity is itself a concern as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has threatened the government with penalties and expulsion unless it begins to produce more reliable statistical data.

Expulsion would lead to a further loss of international financial credibility, which would in turn affect the government's ability to borrow money. …

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