Thursday, January 21, 2021

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 16-09-2017 11:11

Editorial: Cristina takes a challenger – and makes a Cadena

Interviews with Mrs Fernández de Kirchner are a rare enough occurrence but they’re even rarer when not granted to a tame, fawning journalist guaranteed to spare her the trickier questions.

There is always news. Some weeks there may be plenty of exciting developments. Some weeks the pickings may be a little slimmer. But there is always news. However, on Thursday afternoon it seemed – if one is to draw a quick conclusion from the fact that nearly every news channel was showing exactly the same thing, at exactly the same time – as though there was only one story in town. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had decided to give an interview.

Interviews with Mrs Fernández de Kirchner are a rare enough occurrence but they’re even rarer when not granted to a tame, fawning journalist guaranteed to spare her the trickier questions. Thursday’s interview with Infobae’s Luis Novaresio thus proved to be one of the week’s political news highlights by breaking new ground. It was certainly enough for the 24-hour news channels, who are always desperate for quick and easy headlines. They appeared to decide simultaneously that they might as well just show the same thing. Guess there’s no ratings war if everyone is showing the same thing?

The former president’s time before the cameras was interesting, if not as revealing or groundbreaking as much of the press would have you believe. Any neutral observer should recognise Mrs Fernández de Kirchner’s ability to retain and repeat her core messages to voters and the way she can come to dominate a conversation. She is dismissive, always confrontational and she should put herself in this type of position more often.

Analysts, pollsters and commentators talk of how her unpopularity ratings sharpen when she is seen and heard but the former president is not aiming to win the support of everyone in the country. It is worth paying a little attention to some of her declarations. What did we ‘learn’ in her interview with Mr Novaersio?

She repeated her position over the death of Alberto Nisman and accused her opponents of using the death to stain her character. She dismissed claims she was behind the late AMIA special prosecutor’s death (in a week where experts have said they believe he was murdered) and said the Judiciary is neither impartial or reliable and that she is being persecuted. She said she is "a Peronist," not "a leftist" and said she would step aside in 2019 if she was an “obstacle” preventing a a change of government. She said she believes democracies in Latin America are in danger and said Argentina was not a democracy at the moment (though she said our current president’s administration should not be compared to a dictatorship).

So far, same record. The former president wasn’t finished there though. There were evasive answers on former Public Works secretary José López. Yet there were also a few, very minor concessions and admissions of error. She admitted there was inflation under her government – but then said it was worse today. An outright lie. She claimed impressive figures on employment – but was quoting numbers from a statistics agency that under her administration that was unreliable and subject to manipulation. She even spoke about those famed national broadcasts and criticised her own tone during them – before saying they were justified as the media had ignored her government.

The result of Mrs Fernández de Kirchner’s decision to dip her toe into pools beyond her normal comfort zone was bizarre. Though such days are sadly too fresh in our memories, it was almost as if she had created an impromptu Cadena Nacional, so far was the interview’s reach. Yet all in all, it is a sad state of affairs when such the decision to grant an interview is a story in unto itself. Ultimately, it is a consequence of Mrs Fernández de Kirchner’s approach toward communication and the media. While her attempt at takeover TV is notable, if she seeks to continue her political life she has a responsibility to the voters to make interviews such as these more common.

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James Grainger

James Grainger

Editor-in-Chief, Buenos Aires Times.


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