LatinNews Daily - 10 June 2022

ARGENTINA: Fernández steps up criticism of US

In a speech to the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, on 9 June Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández was heavily critical of the US for excluding Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, as well as for the influence it exerts over the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Analysis:

The non-invitation of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela had always promised to be a big theme at the summit. It led the heads of state of Bolivia, Honduras, and Mexico, Luis Arce, Xiomara Castro, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador respectively, as well as the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, to stay away. President Fernández defended their position, saying “the silence of those who are absent is challenging us”. He argued that being the host country should not have given the US the power to impose a “right of admission” to the conference.

  • In other respects, criticism of the US was harsher than had been expected. Fernández accused President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump (2017-2021) of persuading the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lend money irresponsibly to Argentina in 2018-2019 to secure the re-election of the “decadent” right-wing president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019). The Argentine people, Fernández said, were “still suffering from that lack of decency”.
  • Fernández also accused the US-influenced OAS of acting like a regional policeman and supporting the coup in Bolivia in 2019. He lamented that the Trump administration had appointed a US citizen to lead the IDB, breaking the diplomatic convention that it should always be headed by a Latin American.
  • He called for a wide-ranging reform of the OAS, including the replacement of its current secretary-general, former Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro. Fernández also said that the IDB should be recapitalised and its current head, Trump appointee Mauricio Claver-Carone, replaced.
  • Fernández, who has been criticised for failing to specifically condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, limited himself to calling for “negotiation scenarios” to put an end to the “war catastrophe”. He did, however, suggest that Latin America should seize opportunities generated by the conflict, to boost its food and energy production and exports.
  • Reflecting the domestic political agenda, Fernández supported windfall taxes on major corporations to reduce inequalities of income. Fernández sent a bill to congress this week to create a tax on the “unexpected profits” of companies that have benefitted from the surge in food and energy prices, in particular, as a result of the war.
  • Initial reactions to the speech were mixed, with the Argentine national daily La Nación saying that Fernández had been trying to walk a diplomatic tightrope but had fallen off because of his failure to make any criticism of human and civil rights violations in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Looking Ahead: The increased anti-US stance in the speech may reflect Fernández’s attempts to shore up his divided ruling left-of-centre Frente de Todos (FdT) coalition and appease the more radical faction led by Vice-President Cristina Fernández. Argentina could risk alienating US good will (which it continues to need, particularly over its relationship with the IMF).

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