Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Argentina's Cristina Fernandez and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff at the UN

Argentine Cristina Fernández de Kirchner addressed the United Nations General Assembly today. She responded to threats from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by saying that Argentina is not a soccer team that IMF head Christine Lagarde can just drop a red card on and that Argentina isn't going to be pushed around by threats. (Cristina al FMI: "No somos un cuadro de fútbol para que nos saquen roja" InfoNews 25.09.2012) The IMF is grouching because they don't like the way Argentina is presenting its economic data. (IMF chief says hopes Argentina can avoid "red card" over data Reuters 09.24.2012) Fernández said that the current world economic crisis "isn't a soccer game but the biggest crisis of which we can remember since 1930." ("no es un partido de fútbol sino la crisis más grande de la que se tenga memoria desde 1930")

Here is the speech from TV Publica Argentina, Cristina en la Asamblea general de las Naciones Unidas 09/25/2012 (Spanish):

Like President Obama, Cristina opened her UN address with a tribute to US Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi earlier this month.

She mentioned in her speech that in Spain, the government was right now suppressing protests by indignados demonstrating against the harsh austerity policies of the Spanish government imposed on them by outside forces. (In Spain's case, the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank [ECB], known as the Troika.) She said that Argentina knows what they are going through because the Argentines "have also been the victims of neoliberal policies" ("hemos sido víctimas de las políticas neoliberales") also known as the Washington Consensus.

She expressed sympathy for Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal by name as well and noted that neoliberal policies in the eurozone are not only putting the currency union in danger but also the stability of the international financial system. She said that austerity policies were counterproductive because to be able to pay their debts and country has to be able to grow their economy. "The dead don't pay their debts," she said. ("Los muertos no pagan sus deudos.")

She reminded the advanced nations, obviously referring primarily to the EU and Chancellor Angela Merkel's disastrous policies without naming her, that the problem that face is first and foremost a political one. And that history has shown that depressions can wreck democracies. She said the possibility of that development was the thing that worries her most about the current situation.

She also called on Iran to cooperate with Argentine justice in the ongoing investigation into the attack in 1996 against the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. She also called on negotiations over the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands occupied for near 180 years by Britain and over demilitarizing the South Atlantic.

Referring to the debt negotiations that still continue from Argentina's default in 2001 that Argentina is paying back more on their debt than Enron did on theirs. (On that, see Charles Newbery and Alexei Barrionuevo, As Greece Ponders Default, Lessons From Argentina New York Times 06/23/2011).

This is a background article on her by Michael Warren, Cristina Fernandez, Argentina President, Challenges Critics In U.S. Huffington Post 09/24/12. It's not the greatest general description of her Administration, but it does provide some current information on controversies in which she's addressing. It doesn't mention at all two of the main foreign policy themes of her planned speech, the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands dispute with Britain and relations with Iran.

This, on the other hand, is interesting:

Fernandez was meeting with billionaire George Soros and Egypt's new president Mohamed Morsi on Monday, but was skipping a dinner that President Barack Obama is hosting for his fellow leaders at the Waldorf Hotel, planning instead to visit an Evita Peron exhibit at the Argentine consulate. [my emphasis]
Like Jerry Brown, she's willing to turn down invitations from the President. Or maybe the White House disinvited her because she's meeting with the Egyptian President, with whom the US has a gripe at the moment over their immediate handling of protests at the US Embassy in Cairo recently.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also spoke at the General Assembly today, criticizing the neoliberal economic consensus (Brazilian President calls for joint efforts to contain consequences of global economic crisis UN News Centre 09/25/2012), including its application in the most developed countries:

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called on countries to boost international efforts to tackle the global economic crisis, stressing that a balance must be found to stimulate growth while at the same time controlling public spending without resorting to extreme austerity measures.

"The grave economic crisis that began in 2008 has taken on new and worrisome contours," she said. "The choice of orthodox fiscal policies has been worsening the recession in the developed economies, with repercussions for the emerging countries." ...

In particular, the Brazilian President noted that monetary policy cannot be the only response to growing unemployment and poverty as this is causing imbalance in exchange rates, which, in turn, is creating an artificial appreciation of emerging countries’ currencies.

"There will be no effective response to the economic crisis without strengthened coordination efforts between United Nations members and multilateral bodies such as the G20 [Group of 20], the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank," she said.

She added, "This coordination must attempt to reconfigure the relationship between fiscal and monetary policy, in order to prevent the deepening of the recession, control the currency war and once again stimulate global demand." ...

The Brazilian leader emphasized that Brazil has addressed the crisis domestically by exerting strict control over public spending, while simultaneously increasing investments in infrastructure, education and social inclusion.

"We have overcome the incorrect view according to which measures to stimulate growth are incompatible with austerity plans. This is a false dilemma," she said. "Fiscal responsibility is as necessary as growth measures are indispensable, for fiscal consolidation can only be sustainable in a context of economic recovery."
She also criticized the continuing commercial blockade of Cuba as an anachronism. The Obama Administration is accusing both Brazil and Argentina of protectionism because both countries recently raised to tariffs to protect domestic industries. (Rousseff: "No podemos aceptar que medidas comerciales legítimas sean calificadas de proteccionismo" Página 12 25.09.2012) In that last paragraph, Rousseff seems to be referring to austerity in terms of fiscal responsibility rather than the kinds of policies Merkel is inflicting on Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Related pre-speech story: Martín Granovsky, Malvinas e Irán en el discurso Página 12 25.09.2012

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