Cristina Fernández, who’s up for re-election in October, 2015 but desperately needs a legislative majority, is using a photo of herself and candidate Martín Insaurralde (who she hopes will be her majority leader) taken with Pope Francis:
When I was in Buenos aires the week Nestor Kirchner died, leaving Cristina as widow and president, the posters of him and Cristina popped up immediately, on every subway car and station, and on every corner of the city, even in the suburb where I was staying.
Apparently the Pope photo-op is now everywhere. Cristina claims it’s not a campaign ad.
The photo was taken last week during the Pope’s visit to Brazil, which was a resounding success. Pope Francis was meeting the heads of state that came to Mass.
The Pope, who is hugely popular in Argentina (tango included), was, during his tenure as Cardinal in Buenos Aires, a big critic of the Kirchners, but now, with the poster prominently papering every public surface, Cristina’s making look like the Pope’s on her side.
Hundreds of thousands of youths camped out on Copacabana beach ahead of Pope Francis’ final mass for World Youth Day. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro estimated that some three million people would turn up for Sunday mass. Photo: Associated Press.
Soler handed the pope two letters from the wives of political prisoners, according to the French news agency AFP. Soler later told the media that the pope had given her a blessing and asked her to continue her fight.
It may seem like an insignificant encounter to some, but this is a big deal, and the rulers of the Castro Kingdom will gnash their teeth when they see this photo. The Cuban flag draped between the two figures in white will be a great irritant to the tyrants, because they refuse to accept the fact that Cuba belongs to all Cubans, not just to their slave-drivers and those slaves who agree to submit to the lash. .
So, even though this was a brief encounter, it delivers a potent message.
Finally, a third group of political analysts believes the “Francis effect” will hurt the Fernández government, because the pope’s messages against authoritarianism, intolerance, and hubris will be read by most Argentines as indirect criticisms of Fernández.
“A clash is inevitable, and the clash will end up hurting Cristina,” says Jaime Duran Barba, an Ecuadorean pollster who advises opposition leaders here.
My opinion: Despite Fernández’s last minute turn to embrace “Francismania,” the pope’s emergence as the most popular figure in Argentina will end up hurting her.
Granted, Pope Francis will most likely not make any political statements about Argentine politics. He is expected to make his first visit to Argentina as pope in December — after the October mid-term elections — so as not to interfere with local politics.
But in his homilies during his first Latin American visit to Brazil this coming July, his frequent criticism of autocratic measures, political arrogance and hubris will inevitably be read by many here as indirect barbs at the president.
At the very least, “Francismania” will have a dampening effect on Fernández’s ability to circumvent the rules of good democratic behavior — and civility — to get reelected at any cost.
Around 1:30 p.m. local time on March 18, Daniel Del Regno, the kiosk owner’s son, answered the phone and heard a voice say, “Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge.”
He thought that maybe a friend who knew that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires bought the newspaper from them every day was pulling a prank on him.
“Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio, I’m calling you from Rome,” the Pope insisted.
Daniel’s father, Luis Del Regno, said they delivered the paper to the former cardinal’s residence every day.
On Sundays, he said, the cardinal “would come by the kiosk at 5:30 a.m. and buy La Nacion. He would chat with us for a few minutes and then take the bus to Lugano, where he would serve mate (tea) to young people and the sick.”
FP Passport reports that he also called his dentist to cancel appointments.
This reminds me of my late uncle in Puerto Rico, who, when he was the Pope’s age, would get up every morning, put on a suit and tie, walk to the newsstand and the coffee shop and chat with the regulars.
A discomfited government puts a brave face on the election of Pope Francis, while its propagandists use history as a political weapon
Cristina rushed to present the Pope with a nice mate set, like the ones you can buy at Ezeiza airport, and unwrapped it for him,
At The Economist (emphasis added),
The president’s trip to Rome looked like a swift exercise in damage limitation. Her initial letter of congratulation was stiff, in contrast to the enthusiasm expressed by other Latin American leaders. When news of his election broke, her supporters in Argentina’s Congress refused to interrupt a eulogy to Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chávez. While private television channels streamed uninterrupted footage from the Vatican, state-owned Channel 7 preferred a children’s cartoon.
One of Ms Fernández’s closest backers then raked up an accusation that Cardinal Bergoglio, when head of the Argentine branch of the Jesuit order in the 1970s, had been complicit in the crimes of Argentina’s cruel and repressive military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Horacio Verbitsky, an investigative journalist who as editor of Pagina 12, a newspaper, has been chief propagandist for the Kirchner governments, claimed in 1999 that Father Bergoglio had handed over two Jesuit priests to the navy, which held them for five months. The priests had failed to heed his warning that they should leave the poor district where they worked, for their own protection, after a lay worker had joined the Montoneros, a guerrilla movement.
This week Mr Verbitsky published a foreign-ministry document of 1979 which appeared to suggest that Father Bergoglio had recommended that one of the priests, Franz Jalics, who had fled to Germany after his release, should be denied a passport because of his suspected links with leftist guerrilla groups. The new pope was deceitful, argues Mr Verbitsky: while pretending to help the priests publicly, he had privately worked against them.
At first glance, the document looks damning. But academics who have studied Argentina’s political violence of the 1970s think there is no evidence that Father Bergoglio helped the dictatorship, and he himself has rejected that allegation. Marcos Novaro, a sociologist at the University of Buenos Aires, thinks that Father Bergoglio did not want Father Jalics to be granted a passport because he was afraid he would be killed if he returned to Argentina. Father Jalics himself stated this week that Father Bergoglio did not inform on him and his colleague. Loris Zanatta, a historian of the Argentine church, says he has found much documentary evidence of the Jesuits’ efforts to free their colleagues. Others add that Father Bergoglio personally led these.
Mr Verbitsky’s allegation against Pope Francis is an example of the way in which, under the Kirchner governments, history has become a political weapon. The government has promoted trials of retired military officers; unlike previous trials in the 1980s, which ended in an amnesty after threats of military coups, these ones have not included any guerrilla leaders. Several senior officials are former Montoneros, as is Mr Verbitsky. In referring to the past, Ms Fernández never criticises the guerrillas, who were responsible for some 600 deaths and whose terrorism provoked the formation of a right-wing death squad and the 1976 military coup.
A Google search turns up 204,000 results on “Montoneros Cristina Fernández,” going back to her college days.
That was then, this is now: After her Papal mate photo-op, Cristina declared that the Pope talked about “our motherland”, which she interpreted as meaning Latin America, when the Pope probably meant Heaven. Jaime Bayly riffs on that (in Spanish),
And a question,
Cristina: smokey eye look, or full Alice Cooper black eye look?