Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Argentina in a diplomatic initiative toward the global South

Argentina's President Cristina Fernández continues to make her country's presence known in international diplomacy. Her government has agreed to sell peaceful nuclear technologia to Algeria. (Cristina Fernández vende tecnología nuclear argentina a Argelia por Ignacio Cembrero El País 18.11.2008)

She signed an agreement to that effect on an official visit to Algeria, part of a tour of several north African countries, including Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. She's the first Argentinian President to visit Algeria in 24 years. Fernández is using the world economic crisis as an occasion to initiate a more aggressive diplomatic role in encouraging cooperation among the developing countries of the "global South".

The sale of peaceful nuclear technology to Algeria in itself doesn't raise immediate nuclear weapons proliferation worries. But much of the world will be increasingly dependent on nuclear energy as a power source for a number of years, even under a best-case scenario of progress on renewable energy development. And this deal should be a reminder that the entire nuclear nonproliferation structure needs to be updated, including provisions to minimize the possibility that peaceful nuclear programs can be used to develop nuclear weapons.

This is not Argentina's first sale of nuclear technology to Algeria. An Argentine firm sold an experimental reactor to Algeria in 1984. Since then, Algeria has purchased nuclear technology from China, France and South Africa.

While the President was in Africa, her husband and former president Néstor Kirchner gave a fiery speech in which he recalled the return of Juan Peron to Argentina in 1973, which coincided with the end of a military regime. (En el Día de la Militancia peronista, Kirchner lanzó duras críticas para el incipiente frente opositor Clarín 17.11.2008) Kirchner's and Fernández' Partido Justicialista (PJ) began as Peron's party. Kirchner was speaking in his capacity as the head of the PJ. He and Cristina are "left Peronists", which means in European terms that they are more-or-less social democrats and don't carry much of the authoritarian baggage that was also part of Peron's heritage. Fernández began her career as a human rights attorney and has made it a priority to continue the process of cleaning up the legal and human rights mess left by the last military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983).

The not-very-well-organized conservative opposition groups mainly consist of the Coalición Cívica the remnants of the Unión Cívica Radical. Kirchner said they wanted to return Argentina to the past, which would be a punishment the people don't deserve.

Kirchner in his speech scoffed at notion that the G-20 could solve the current crisis, since some of them were primarily responsible for the crisis. And he defended his own policies and those of Cristina as putting Argentina in position to get the current crisis on an optimal basis. (He put it more eloquently than that.)

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