The new US President Joe Biden has “bad memories” of Kirchnerism due to the episodes he experienced when he was Barack Obama’s vice, say Washington experts who closely follow the United States’ relationship with Argentina. However, they believe that Alberto Fernández is not Cristina Kirchner and that the link may be more pragmatic. But that fundamentally depends on our country.
Benjamin Gedan was part of the Obama-Biden administration as director of the Southern Cone department of the National Security Council and today he directs the “Argentina Project” at the Wilson Center. For this expert on the Argentine-American relationship, “Biden has, without a doubt, bad memories of Kirchnerism since he was President Obama’s emissary to Latin America at a time of tense relations between Washington and Buenos Aires.”
Gedan points out that in Obama’s 8 years in office, “the United States and Argentina had repeated diplomatic crossings”, such as the episode of the pliers – the seizure of military material by the Argentine government from an Air Force cargo plane of the United States-, and also Argentina’s complaint against the United States in the International Court of Justice, related to the dispute with US bondholders.
Barack Obama and Cristina Kirchner, in an image from December 2013. Photo: AFP
In addition, Gedan adds, “the rapprochement between Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the government of Iran caused deep unease in Washington, and she seemed to enjoy bad blood with the US authorities.
‘If something happens to me,’ she said, ‘look north.’
However, the expert emphasizes: “But Alberto is the president, not Cristina, and Biden will not hold him responsible for the foreign policy mistakes of his vice president.” Gedan believes that there are still “issues of possible disagreement”, and mentions Argentina’s interest in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Huawei’s 5G technology.
The position towards Venezuela
Also, he believes that “Alberto’s blind eye to human rights abuses in Venezuela will frustrate the Biden government. The conflicts between him and the Argentine media and judiciary could also provoke criticism from the new United States government ”.
But despite that, he believes that “there are opportunities to strengthen ties. Unlike Trump, Biden has a broad agenda for Latin America and that will give Argentina the opportunity to collaborate on issues ranging from renewable energy to refugees. “
Michael Camilleri, who also served in the Obama-Biden administration as a Western Hemisphere advisor to the State Department’s Strategy team, told Clarion who does not believe that the memory (of Kirchnerism) weighs in the relationship, at least on the American side.
“It seems to me that there is a position of a constructive bilateral relationship, but it will depend on Argentina, above all. If Argentina’s foreign policy towards the United States is managed to impact internal politics, as it was in the past, that will not allow space for the type of relationship that we all would like ”.
Argentina’s stance towards the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela will be a key axis of the relationship between Buenos Aires and Washington. Photo: Xinhua
“There is a lot of room for a good relationship, maybe not with a total coincidence on all issues, which is natural. I would say that it depends a lot on the Argentine side on what kind of rapprochement there will be between the two governments, “added Camilleri, an expert at the InterAmerican Dialogue, an analysis center in the US capital.
The gestures Washington awaits
Regarding the gestures that the Biden government could expect from Argentina, Camilleri points out that “the issue of Venezuela is the first that could arise, because it is permanently on the agenda. Defending democracy and human rights there would be important. In some cases, countries may have, in good faith, differences on what should be the best strategy to resolve a crisis, but on the systematic violation of human rights there cannot be many grays ”.
Camilleri also believes that our country could potentially have a more regional and global role. “In the framework of an ideologically diverse region, facing a pandemic and in some cases democratic challenges, Argentina can be a voice and an important factor in regional, even global, debates at the United Nations,” he says.
For example, he adds, “When Argentina wants a very important voice in human rights and could have it in issues such as the environment or refugees and the maintenance of peace. It has a multilateral agenda in which Argentina as the third power in Latin America would have to have a role if you want to assume it with principles. If you are willing to do that, the perception from Washington will be very positive and it will welcome Argentina in those spaces, “he explained.
Argentina is now renegotiating a millionaire loan with the International Monetary Fund and the help of the United States in the organization’s board will be key. Asked about the matter, Camilleri said that “the Biden government is going to have all the openness to help Argentina resolve this issue. But that depends much more on Argentina than on Washington. Argentina is going to have to present a plan that meets the conditions and expectations of the Fund to move forward and that depends on the Argentines, it does not depend on Washington ”.