By Jacqueline Strzemp and Olivia Jaras, Center for Strategic Research
Nestor Kirchner, former President of Argentina and first Secretary General of UNASUR, died of a heart attack on the morning of October 27 in the city of Calafate in southern Argentina. Not only has he left behind his family and his wife of 35 years, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the current President of Argentina, but he also left behind a void in his political party, where he not only was the leader of the Partido Justicialista (PJ), but the most important leader of the Peronista party as a whole.
As president from 2003 to 2007, he led Argentina out of the post-Menem era economy and he was notorious as a tough negotiator with the IMF and was successful in lifting some of the economic burden from the country’s already precarious budgetary constraints. He also began a controversial process of re-evaluating many of the cases of human rights violations that occurred during the military dictatorship in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Kirchner was the last Peronist able to unite the subdivisions of the party, such as the PJ, and his loss leaves a fragmented Peronista movement. Critics argue that Kirchner was a major influence in Cristina’s government. There is uncertainty how President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will be able to lead the country without her husband by her side. She must demonstrate her political ability, even while she and the country mourn. If she is unable to govern sufficiently, her party will most likely lose power in the upcoming 2011 elections.
The big question remaining for the elections in 2011 will be whether or not Cristina will run, now that she has lost her running mate. Dissident movements are already organizing and will take advantage of Argentina’s loss. Many worry Cristina will be unable to fulfill her duties, and the country will become unstable as a result. Will she be able to retain the support of the Peronista party, without her husband’s influence? What changes in governance and policymaking will occur in the near future as a result? The world must wait and see.