Friday, August 27, 2010

Argentina: The Kirchners & Their Abuse of Powers

(Buenos Aires) -- What would you think if your President went on national television to accuse your country's two leading newspapers of "crimes against humanity"?

My first thought would be "What kind of drugs is the President on?"

Well that very thing has just happened here in Argentina, where the ruling power couple has a embarked upon a very dangerous vendetta against their critics.

President Cristina Kirchner is leading the public charge, with her husband -- and former President, Nestor -- pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Their target is the media, specifically Grupo Clarin, one of the major media outlets in the country, and publisher of one of the country's most influential newspapers, El Clarin.

The Kirchners have decided to seize a private company that is jointly-owned by Grupo Clarin and La Nacion, the other top paper in the country.

They're taking Papel Prensa, the papers' newsprint division, claiming that the two newspapers illegally "stole" the company from its owners in 1977.

Never mind that the Kirchners' so-called "evidence" has been refuted by the family that sold the company back then.

So the government has seized the newsprint operations of the top two newspapers in the country.

If this happened in Cuba or Venezuela, it would not be a surprise. But this is Argentina, a nation that now enjoys freedom of the press, and where it's been 27 years since the end of the last dictatorship.

At the same time as the Kirchners are seizing Papel Prensa, they're also taking another bold and dangerous move -- they're ordering the shut-down of one of Argentina's three internet providers, Fibertel.

Why? Well, because they didn't comply with regulations, say government officials.

Or could it be because Fibertel is owned by Grupo Clarin?

This move, even more than the Papel Prensa stunt, has drawn significant opposition amongst the public.

Basically, the ruling power couple is abusing their powers to silence critics. And it's a message to any other critics: If you value being in business, you better shut up, or we'll get you next.

Yes, Cristina Kirchner has an oversized ego, but perhaps it would suit her better to put less emphasis on trying to look good in public, and actually do things that will encourage a prosperous and thriving economy.

But apparently Cristina has been taking notes from her pal, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

And that's the road to economic disaster.

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