By Bryan Weiner
“Siempre voy a estar junto a ustedes desde cualquier lado, porque por sobre todas las cosas, soy una militante peronista de toda la vida” (I will always be with you from any side, because above all things, I am a lifelong Peronist militant/activist) – Twitter: 7/10/13.
Shortly after it was revealed that Evo Morales’ plane was forced to land in Austria due to pressure from the United States who believed that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was aboard, there was an emergency meeting of left-leaning Latin American leaders enraged by the incident. Upon leaving from that meeting, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, furiously tweeted about the need for Latin American leaders to come together to oppose the next wave of colonialism coming from the north, in the form of espionage and by keeping poor Latin American countries in the role of raw-material exporting economies. She called on the need for Latin American leaders to come together, rise up, and create a new world order and a “second independence”. She ended with the first quote, declaring that she is a Peronist militant for life.
These are strong words coming from a president who has incorporated the notion of revolutionary militancy as part of her political persona and presidential rhetoric. However, in order to gain a true understanding of who Kirchner is, it is important to look at the crucial (albeit short) period of time when Kirchner was actually involved in the political student movement.
Interestingly, while as a student at the University of La Plata she was quite involved in the Peronist movement and the various student groups aligned with the Fuerzas Armada Revolucionaria (FAR – the Armed Revolutionary Forces) with her soon-to-be husband, Nestor Kirchner, she never fully joined the actual militant group, the Montoneros. Her biography describes how she first became active in the movement when she was witness to the Ezeiza Massacre (a bloody massacre that occurred when right-wing Peronist forces opened fire on a crowd of the left-wing Peronists who were greeting Perón on his return from exile in Spain). During her university days, Néstor and Cristina regularly had militants stay in their home and she was even imprisoned for nearly a month (Chap. 8 “El Sur”) in January 1976 for her association with militants. Shortly after this she began to have a number of her close friends “disappear” and she and her husband decided to go to the safer and more out-of-the-way Patagonia following the military coup that overthrew the government of Isabel Perón on March 29th, 1976.
After working their way up through the political ranks, Néstor and Cristina burst back on to the political scene with their new form of left-leaning Peronism, often referred to as Kirchnerism, to rebuild the country through what Cristina now refers to as “La Década Ganada”. Her tweets, like the example, often play on the revolutionary leftist spirit that has swept much of Latin America. The rhetoric of anti-imperialism has a great deal of sway in a region that has borne the brunt of the heavy-handed, neo-imperialist policies of the United States.
Her experience as a militant leads one to question whether her militancy is really an expression of her ideals or whether it is part of a carefully crafted political strategy. She was outspoken and involved during her college days, but she was able to avoid the oppression and violence that many of her classmates and fellow revolutionaries faced. However, had she joined the ranks of the disappeared, she would never have had the opportunity to work within the system and create the revolutionary changes that have come through the last 10 years. Participation in violence doesn’t make someone a militant and Kirchner has certainly shown that she is willing to fight for what she believes in, but her championing Peronist militancy does fit very well into the greater political rhetoric that is sweeping Latin America.