May 21, 2013
What’s going on
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
The lines of the national anthem (1813): “And the free peoples of the world respond: Health to the great Argentine people” might suggest that Argentina has always exaggerated its importance to the rest of the world from its very birth — in point of fact, the free peoples of the world in 1813 were probably far too immersed in the Napoleonic Wars between a tyrannical French emperor and generally absolutist monarchs to spare much thought for the “great Argentine people” (all 400,000 of them then), never mind the dire communications two centuries ago (which meant that it took until 1810 for the overthrow of the Spanish Bourbon monarchy in 1808 to sink in fully here). These lines suggest an assumption of universal benevolence towards the Argentine revolution but over the succeeding two centuries, this attitude has gradually taken the opposite form of a certain paranoia — the notion of a great anti-Argentine conspiracy in the rest of the planet to thwart this nation from fulfilling its destiny of grandeur. Two initiatives from the outside world coinciding with the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Argentine nationhood last Friday might well reinforce such paranoia — the European Union’s presentation of a formal complaint over Argentine import restrictions to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and British Prime Minister David Cameron going out of his way to visit a memorial to Britain’s veterans of the 1982 Malvinas war, on Argentina’s national day no less.
Not that such paranoia extended beyond our fertile imaginations to any direct government reactions at the time this editorial was written — although various lines of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s May 25 speech in Bariloche would seem to be replying to the EU’s WTO complaint, protesting the “formal protectionism” of the developed world and praising Argentina as both an over-generous importer and an investment paradise. The CFK administration’s response to criticisms about this year’s protectionism (intensified since February) has generally been to trot out import figures from last year leading to that ultra-protectionism (the result of a skewed exchange rate, not generosity or devotion to free trade) when current data would tell a very different story but that is not the point of this editorial.
The point is rather that on the 202nd anniversary of nationhood a mature patriotism should not take the form of paranoia or an assumption of universal fascination with this country or isolationism but simply taking Argentina’s rightful place in the concert of nations.