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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Obama criticizes ‘anti-American’ CFK

President Mauricio Macri speaks at the Rosario Stock Exchange in Santa Fe province yesterday.
President Mauricio Macri speaks at the Rosario Stock Exchange in Santa Fe province yesterday.
President Mauricio Macri speaks at the Rosario Stock Exchange in Santa Fe province yesterday.

US president hails ‘new era’ in relations with Macri administration on eve of high-profile visit

Just a week before his much-anticipated arrival in the country, US President Barack Obama made a dramatic intervention into local politics yesterday, heaping praise on Mauricio Macri while branding former head of state Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as “anti-American.”

In comments going far beyond his previous utterances on Argentine politics, Obama said Fernández de Kirchner’s government was “always anti-American” during an interview with CNN news channel, adding that she had used rhetoric more suited to the 1960s and 1970s than the modern day. In contrast, he said that Macri’s election heralded “a new era” in relations.

His remarks came as recent demands made by leading national human rights groups, including the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, pressed the US Judicirary to release secret documents concerning investigations into crimes against humanity and US-Argentine relations during the time of the last military dictatorship (1976-1983).

Quizzed on US foreign policy and the developing relationship between the US and various states in Latin America, Obama said that Argentina was representative of how previously frosty relations between the US and foreign nations could improve.

“I think Argentina is a good example of the shift that has taken place regarding US relations with other governments and other countries in general,” he said.

Obama added that Macri, Fernández de Kirchner’s centre-right successor inaugurated on December 10 last year, had correctly recognized an apparent shift in politics on the continent which until recently was dominated by a hegemony of centre-left and progressive presidencies.

“Macri has recognized that we are in a new era, that we must look forward and that Argentina was historically a very powerful country (and) has weakened its relative position in part by not having adapted to the world economy as effectively as it could have,” the US leader said.

In terms not dissimilar from those previously used by Macri himself, Obama welcomed his change in tack regarding the economy, praising the measures the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) leader has taken so far as a commitment to “openness, transparency, competitiveness, progress.”

SLAMS CFK’s ‘PERCEPTIONS’

In contrast, Obama criticized Macri’s predecessor Fernández de Kirchner, saying that, “with respect to her politics, she was always anti-American,” and attacking her as resurrecting rhetoric more suited to the Cold War era — when US military interventions in Latin America were commonplace.

“I think that she renewed a rhetoric that probably dates from the 1960s or 1970s and not from reality,” he said, conceding that on personal terms the pair shared a “cordial” relationship.

Obama also appeared to imply that US-Latino relations during the last decade had often been strained because Latin American states had a misguided view of US intentions in the region. He said that outreach efforts promoted by his government would help to remove “this lingering irritant or perception that somehow the United States was trying to big-foot smaller countries in the region.”

Fernández de Kirchner regularly attacked US foreign policy, including that of the Obama administration, numerous times during her tenure, most famously in her two most recent speeches to the United Nations General Assembly.

In her 2014 annual address to the international community at the UN headquarters in New York, the then-head of state implied the US government, or US interests, might seek to harm her presidency, saying “if something happens to me, look North.”

At her final UN address as president last year, she accused the US directly of harbouring former Argentine fugitive and ex-spymaster Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso, asking US officials from the podium: “Where is he?”

RIGHTS GROUPS DEMAND ANSWERS

Obama, who will visit Argentina between March 22-24, will become the first US president to touch Argentine soil since 2005, when former president and Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush attended the Summit of the Americas in Mar Del Plata.

Ahead of his visit, as the Herald reported on Saturday, human rights groups in Argentina have issued statements over the past days demanding the cooperation of US authorities with the ongoing investigations into crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.

Yesterday, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo organization announced they handed into US Ambassador in Argentina Noah B. Mamet “a letter demanding (the US government) cooperate with the search for memory, truth and justice” in the country, especially in light of Obama’s scheduled visit to Buenos Aires and Bariloche.

Specifically, the rights organizations demanded “the declassification of papers now in the hands of the United States government regarding ... the truth of what happened to our disappeared” and the implementation “of some measures meant to locate some of the men and women who may be some of the grandchildren that Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have been looking for, for 40 years now.”

Those papers include files by the US State Department and other agencies such as the Federal Investigations Bureau (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

“It’s a decade-long demand by human rights organizations,” Grandmothers concluded.

Representatives from Grandmothers were joined by Mothers of Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line, Relatives of Forcibly Disappeared People for Political Reasons and the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS).

Herald staff with online media

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