Entrevista a Agustín Rossi

Defence Minister Agustín Rossi talks to the Herald as he hits first 100 days in office

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 09-09-2013

The day’s last rays of sun enter the office on the 11th-floor of the Defence Ministry, where Agustín Rossi has been working during the past 100 days. Metres away from the Government House, it is quite a different work environment for the former head of the Victory Front caucus (FpV) in the Lower House, where he got used to the hot political climate of congressional politics.

Two years ago, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a decree creating the Northern Shield (Escudo Norte) to patrol the country’s northern borders. Last week, you announced the deployment of 4,500 army officers to help Border Guard officers in that task — isn’t that at odds with the Domestic Security Law?
Definitely not. The resolution that established the so-called Operativo Fortín, signed by (former minister Arturo) Puricelli, described the involvement of the Armed Forces in this operation. Ever since then, the Air Force has been controlling the radar system that went along with the Northern Shield. Whenever irregular air activity is detected, the information is passed to the appropriate security force — which in this case is the Border Guards. We just inform.

So with this new decision will the Army begin patrolling?
Patrolling — yes. But we won’t be doing activities related to domestic security: stopping vehicles, checking documents. Nothing of that sort.

Why was this decision taken? Have you noticed an increase in “irregular activities” in the north?
During the dinner with officers and leaders of the Armed Forces (in July) the president had already ordered me to prepare a deployment of Army soldiers to control the northern border, which is Argentina’s most important land border. The decision was already taken back then — we’re just strengthening the operation.

What are the tasks of the Military Coordination of Emergencies Assistance Secretariat (Secretaría de Coordinación Militar de Asistencia en Emergencias) created last June?
During the last few years we’ve seen that the role of the Armed Forces during emergencies has been well received by society. They bring in discipline, deployment and logistics capability — concepts which are highly appreciated when a catastrophe occurs. The Armed Forces showed what they were capable of in the La Plata floods and then again in Rosario, when they took part in the rescue operations (following last month’s gas explosion). We’re trying to intensify the role of the forces in emergency matters and to create equipment centres to have on hand in case of an emergency.

How do the Armed Forces respond to this new role of social assistance?
I wouldn’t call it social assistance, precisely. But they are taking an active role during emergencies, something they really like — it allows them to put into practice many of the things they’ve learned and builds bridges between the Armed Forces and civil society, especially in times of peace.

What about the appointment of Army Chief César Milani? After a heated debate, the President decided it will be discussed in Congress after the October elections — is that still the idea?
His promotion is in the Senate. But his appointment led to a debate that was marked by the launch of the electoral campaign. Army Chief appointments don’t have to be examined right away — it was more of a decision by us, but we could have sent the promotion in November or December, when the rest of the promotions are discussed.

So the government is going to defend his appointment once again before the end of the year.
That’s right.

The Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) requested the rejection of Milani’s appointment because of his alleged violation of human rights. How is the relationship with CELS, being that the human rights organization supports the national government in many areas?
Very good. See, the CELS asked for a rejection based on a document that, according to us, was not strong enough. The document they claimed to be new — the Tucumán file — was actually not new but that information was sent to the corresponding jurisdictions for Justice to have the final word.

What is your opinion on the Victory Front performance in the primaries?
Under this electoral system, we actually have a single election divided into two chapters. So I discourage analyses in the middle of the electoral process — we’ll be able to talk about it after the October 27 elections.

But Kirchnerism did poorly in many important districts. Is there a way of turning around this situation before the general election?
We’ll have to act differently in each district. We need to work on our electoral potential and show the results of our 10-year administration.

Over the last few weeks, the idea that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would pursue a third term has lost its strength. What do you think the two years ahead will be like?
As a bloc we never worked to amend the Constitution — it was an agenda pushed more by the opposition than by us. On the other hand, Cristina (Fernández de Kirchner) is not only the head of state, but also the clear leader of the Victory Front. There’s no other leadership in contemporary Argentina that had to face so many challenges, and yet she recovered from them and built a political force that was widely legitimized in the last presidential elections. So I think she will continue to lead the country according to that electoral contract and with her intense leadership.

Judging by your words, I guess you are the kind of leader who does not talk about potential successors.
Good guess (laughs). There’s still a long way to go.

Are you comfortable in this new role?
Yes, I’m very happy. (Pauses) It’s different. There are a lot of differences. But I’m looking forward to continue achieving new goals in the ministry.

You have led the Kirchnerite bloc in the Lower House for seven and a half years. Don’t you miss it a little bit?
No. The president called me on a Thursday afternoon to tell me I was going to be Defence Minister. When I got out of that meeting, I went to my office, said I needed to clear my belongings, and I started thinking about defence matters. I closed the door on a good tenure.

Entrevista a Eduardo Blaustein

"It’s stupid not to go to the debates in Todo Noticias"

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 29-09-2013

Argentine journalist Eduardo Blaustein is best known for Decíamos Ayer, a take on the role of the printing press during the last military dictatorship that has become a classic in the genre. His latest book, Years of Rage (Años de Rabia, published by Vergara) analyzes the troubled relationship between Kirchnerism and the press — in other words, the government’s rage against the (media) machine.

Why do you say the high-outrage situation is not a Kirchnerite invention? I call the government’s fury against media outlets “rage.” Presidents have long feared what the media say about them — (Raúl) Alfonsin did, (Carlos) Menem did, (Néstor) Kirchner did. Obviously, Kirchnerism has its own excesses and passions. Some of them are kind of skewed, and end up hurting the government — but others are quite reasonable. For example, when Menem decided to withdraw from the 2003 presidential runoff (La Nación deputy director Claudio) Escribano wrote furiously against Kirchner even before he took office — thus provoking Kirchner’s harsh reply. But while La Nación’s stance is heavily ideological, Clarín’s opposition to the national government is destructive, corporate. The Clarín Group is very conscious of its own power.

Do you think Clarín reacts more furiously because it was once a Kirchnerite ally? The problem with that question is that it analyzes the situation from a personal framework rather than structural. But Clarín’s executives have kept a cool head so as to avoid criticizing the government like a scorned woman. They calculated their moves and scored a triumph by bringing (journalist Jorge) Lanata into the team.

The conglomerate mounted a scheme to keep control of the agenda that begins Saturday with Lanata’s op-ed, continues on Sunday with his TV programme Periodismo para Todos that ends up in the newspaper’s print edition one day later...
This mechanical repetition is one of the best arguments in favour of the Broadcast Media Law. Now, it will be fun to see how this relationship ends, because they already served each other’s interests. I won’t be surprised if a potential break-up between both parties comes with a scandal.

In your book you acknowledge that the Clarín Group has been quite effective when it comes to connecting with its audience. How do you explain the phenomenon?
Clarín has developed a 68-year-old cultural bond — it’s not something a government can achieve in a few years. When Clarín buys Channel 13, it buys something that already has a significant cultural weight. I mean, Telenoche exists since the sixties. They have strong relationships with audiences — especially with urban middle classes.

On the other hand, you say Kirchnerism has somewhat failed at attracting media audiences, is that correct?
Kirchnerism tried to reply with its characteristic coarseness and finds it terribly difficult to have an open discussion. I think the creation of (TV programme) 6, 7, 8 was useful, especially to spread certain discussions, but then they became insular. Kirchnerite printed media, which, somewhere between 2008 and 2009 were useful to keep their voter base, were largely unable to obtain professional management and open up. But it’s hard to communicate issues from the state.

Maybe the pro-Kirchnerite press does not perceive changes in audiences the way the Clarín Group does.
But now it would be too late to try a different communication approach, anyway. Even if (Martín) Caparrós, (Cristian) Alarcón and (Reynaldo) Sietecase were given a voice (in pro-government media outlets), the other media giant will still be there and the fight would still be rather uneven. I also think this government must have produced some major changes to be able to survive this level of aggression (from Clarín). That’s the other way of looking at it.

Wouldn’t you like to see more criticism to some measures in pro-government media?
There has been, in fact, some criticism — over mining activities, the use of chemical pesticides or the latest appointments in the Security ministy, which have been resisted by part of the press and even some in the government. But these spaces somehow reflect the current political leadership. For example, (Cabinet Chief) Juan Manuel Abal Medina, a guy who came from (centre-left party) Frepaso, suddenly plays the role of the tough Kirchnerite — I don’t buy it. Same thing happened with the press conference headed by (vice-president) Amado Boudou: a cool guy faking the bad Kirchnerite role and talking about “Clarín’s henchmen.” Come on! I like the calm speech of (Jorge) Taiana. Or the ones from (Carlos) Tomada, Agustín Rossi, (Florencio) Randazzo talking about effectiveness and government administration...

One of the chapters is devoted to Kirchnerism in Buenos Aires City and its troubles to connect with porteños, including the issue of candidate Daniel Filmus not attending debates on the Grupo Clarín premises. Why is this so important to you?
I think it’s stupid that they didn’t take part in the debates held on (news channel) TN. One could say they destroy you in the editing room. But at the same time, fuck you, this is politics. You have to go everywhere. If you stay only with Tiempo Argentino, you haven’t opened up the debate. I wrote something similar back in 2008, when (former and late President) Néstor Kirchner disappeared from the media. I wondered: with such power, why choose exile? I think they were huge mistakes.

What do you think of the presidential language?
Cristina (Fernández de Kirchner) displays great versatility. We fill our mouths talking about increasing the level of debate, but when a leader like her comes around and uses complex speech, she suddenly sounds pedantic — a paradox. I’m excited with the amount of attention factory workers give to her speeches, listening to her as if she were Fidel Castro. That seems invaluable to me.

Are these hard times for journalists in Argentina?
These are complicated times, indeed. On the one hand, journalism practices and media concentration have been extensively discussed, which is very valuable. But media companies have limited the freedom of workers more than they did back in the nineties. And as a reader, to be able to catch the most interesting things you need to either be a very disciplined person or a highly engaged reporter, and read the two or three journalists from each newspaper who are worth reading. But that’s an heroic exercise — you can’t ask everyone to do that.

Entrevista a Loris Zanatta

"Perón no fue un estadista"

por Federico Poore
Ámbito Financiero, 27-09-2013

Promediando la charla, el historiador italiano Loris Zanatta admitirá que llegó al peronismo "de causalidad". De paso por Buenos Aires, donde vino a presentar su último trabajo sobre la política exterior de las primeras dos presidencias de Juan Domingo Perón, "La Internacional Justicialista", el profesor de la Universidad de Bologna y autor de "Historia de la Iglesia Argentina" -un clásico que escribió en colaboración con Roberto Di Stefano- analiza por qué cree, a contramano de buena parte de la historiografía, que el líder justicialista era "un fanfarrón" de mirada corta.

¿Dónde encuentra las raíces de lo que llama el expansionismo peronista?
Loris Zanatta: Comienza con la formación del Estado nacional y la idea de que la Argentina -como país joven, rico, nuevo- tiene el destino manifiesto de civilizar al resto de los países de América Latina. Pero si en la etapa liberal había una primacía geopolítica, cuando los Estados Unidos representaban un modelo de civilización, a partir del peronismo esta conducción comienza a basarse en elementos corporativos. Perón tiene la idea de que en el hemisferio americano existen dos potencias: una, Estados Unidos, que tiene todo el derecho a dominar la parte anglosajona del hemisferio. Es decir, Canadá (risas). Del otro lado, Argentina, que sale de la Segunda Guerra Mundial con numerosas reservas y está en condiciones de ejercer cierta influencia en las relaciones internacionales basado en valores orgánicos, vinculados a la civilización católica e hispánica.

Todo esto en el marco del comienzo de la Guerra Fría.
Absolutamente. No olvidemos que Estados Unidos y la Unión Soviética habían sido aliados durante la guerra. Entonces, cuando en 1946 Perón habló de un bloque católico de naciones, podía pensarse que era una manera de preservar estos valores. Pero comienza la Guerra Fría y a Perón le cuesta entender los cambios que se producen. De acuerdo con su visión, el mundo estaba hecho de civilizaciones: los eslavos, los anglosajones, los teutones y, por supuesto, los latinos, a quienes quería unir bajo la conducción del peronismo. Pero cuando se empieza a formar el mundo bipolar, estas antiguas divisiones desaparecen. Surge un nuevo enemigo -el comunismo soviético- que, fortalecido, se expande y ocupa la mitad de Europa (y el papa se concentra en condenarlo, aun cuando la Iglesia siempre había criticado al liberalismo). De pronto, la división europea que Perón visualizaba fue sustituida por la unión frente a la amenaza del comunismo. El Plan Marshall ayuda tanto a la católica Italia como a la protestante Alemania Occidental. Es por eso que el intento de Perón de imponer su visión del destino manifiesto argentino pierde su razón de ser. El papa le hace entender claramente que no apoyaría una iniciativa de ese tipo porque dividiría a Occidente. El papa dice: "¿Cómo vamos a dividir a Occidente cuando sólo los Estados Unidos están en condiciones de enfrentar a la Unión Soviética?". De manera que el sueño panlatino peronista se apoyaba sobre bases anacrónicas.

Pero funcionó, y muy bien, durante un tiempo.
El mito político de la tercera posición funcionó perfectamente. De hecho, funcionó tan bien que Perón luego no pudo abandonarlo. Si hubiera sido un estadista, y yo en este trabajo descubrí que Perón no lo era él hubiese establecido una buena relación con los Estados Unidos. Pero después de haber gastado todos sus recursos en sus tres primeros años, no puede establecer una relación más cooperativa porque a su propia masa le había vendido el mito de la "Argentina potencia". Lo cual no quiere decir que no haya sido un mito popular extraordinariamente eficaz.

¿Cómo recibieron esta idea el resto de los países latinoamericanos?
En un primer momento, los países vecinos estuvieron muy pendientes del peronismo, les gustara o no. La Argentina podía fijar precios y usó el trigo como política: zanahoria para los países amigos y garrote para los países que no entraban en este proyecto panlatino. Algo que más tarde pagarían, porque aquellos a los que chantajeás hoy, no bien pueden, te pasan factura mañana. Y no eran sólo misiones comerciales: también eran misiones diplomáticas e infiltraciones en sindicatos extranjeros, con costos enormes para las finanzas argentinas. Pero a partir de 1949, incluso los regímenes que Perón suponía que habían abrazado su proyecto y el del nacionalismo económico, como (Carlos) Ibáñez, (Getulio) Vargas o (Víctor) Paz Estenssoro, terminan queriendo escapar de la influencia peronista, porque terminan entendiendo que se trataba de una política de expansión del mito nacional argentino. No era un proyecto de integración sino una forma de subimperialismo.

¿Por qué dice que lo decepcionó la figura de Perón?
Porque descubrí a un hombre muy fanfarrón. A Perón le gustaba sentarse con los huéspedes y hablar de los grandes temas internacionales, a pesar de que él mismo estaba marginado de la vida internacional. No se encontró con los grandes líderes en la época. Perón estaba convencido de que iba a estallar una Tercera Guerra Mundial... cosa que hasta 1950 tenía sentido. Pero él seguía pensando esto en 1954, cuando ya había muerto Stalin. Pero más importante aún, era muy cortoplacista. Su solución siempre fue apoyar a todos, lo mismo que hizo desde el exilio con la guerrilla y los sindicatos.

Usted sabe que esta postura lo enfrenta con otros historiadores, peronistas o no, que reconocen que Perón tuvo una visión más global, de estadista, sobre todo en la década del setenta.
¡Pero por favor! Todavía en 1972, Perón da una entrevista en la que condena "la sinarquía internacional"; la supuesta alianza entre la masonería, el comunismo y los judíos... Claro, estoy de acuerdo con ellos cuando dicen que el Perón del 73 era más político. Eso sí: es un hombre consciente de las fuerzas necesarias para pacificar el país. Pero eso no impide señalar que durante la proscripción haya seguido esa misma política de decirle a cualquiera lo que esa persona quería escuchar. Este antiliberalismo y reivindicación del pasado orgánico hace que siga pensando al peronismo no como un partido sino como un todo. Y si todos tienen que caber, el pluralismo social termina expresándose dentro de un partido que no ofrece herramientas para dirimir esos conflictos, que terminan siendo choques. Más aún: estoy convencido de que a la misma (Revolución) Libertadora hay que empezar a leerla como un conflicto dentro del peronismo, donde dos instituciones como las Fuerzas Armadas y la Iglesia -que habían sido parte fundamental del armazón corporativo del peronismo- lo tumban a Perón porque el evitismo había cobrado demasiado poder dentro del movimiento.

¿De dónde nace su interés por el peronismo?
A mí el peronismo en sí mismo me interesa poco. No me parece tan original como muchos piensan.

Sin embargo, le dedicó varios libros al tema.
Es cierto. Pero las historias casi nunca son lineales. En mi caso, era un buen alumno, gané una beca de doctorado y de casualidad conocí a un chico argentino exiliado en Italia que me convenció de venirme a estudiar a la Argentina. Mi primer trabajo fue fruto de mi tesis de doctorado y tuvo mucho éxito, entonces de alguna manera también respondo a una demanda. Por otro lado, al comienzo no estudié el peronismo, sino sus orígenes, es decir, las Fuerzas Armadas y la Iglesia, y a medida que fui madurando como historiador me di cuenta que había un tema que iba mucho más allá de la historia argentina, uno de relevancia universal: una reacción antiliberal que desemboca en un fenómeno político: el populismo moderno.

Usted caracteriza al justicialismo como autoritario. ¿Dónde traza la línea que divide al antiliberalismo del autoritarismo?
Soy de aquellos que piensan que el peronismo fue un totalitarismo, entendiendo que nunca ningún autoritarismo fue total, sino una tendencia. Uno puede ser antiliberal y no ser autoritario. Pero en este caso no estamos hablando sólo de ser "anti". Hablamos de un fenómeno que tiene una matriz esencialmente religiosa y que cree que la sociedad tiene un principio natural y divino. Esta concepción orgánica-tradicional niega la existencia del individuo, un principio democrático. Que sea popular no quiere decir que no sea autoritario.

Granados makes 100,000 promises

Granados makes 100,000 promises
BA province Security minister vows to double police forces in only two years

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 26-09-2013

The head of the Victory Front (FpV) Buenos Aires province Security Minister Alejandro Granados yesterday announced that one of his key goals in his new post is to have a total of 100,000 police across the province within two years.
“We now have 42,000 men working the streets of the province but we’ll be adding lots more who are now doing paperwork and we’ll be strict with those on sick leave so that they return back to work soon,” Granados said.
Remarks from the former Ezeiza mayor came one day after the so-called Provincial Security Council held a meeting in La Plata City, where Granados began discussing with leaders from different political parties some of the measures he will adopt to fight crime in the province.
But is this promise a realistic goal, or merely wishful thinking?
“It’s very difficult,” former Security secretary León Arslanián told the Herald. “I assigned 5,000 new officers each year, and we had lots of trouble finding them because of the complex selection process.”
Arslanián, who served as a local official during the last part of the 2002-2007 Felipe Solá provincial administration, compared his experience with Granados’ promise of adding 50,000 men a year before the end of 2015.
“I really don’t know how he would do it,” the former official said.

‘Bring back retired officers’
The recently appointed minister explained that apart from taking officers away from desk jobs to patrol the streets there are other ways of boosting personnel numbers.
“Five thousand officers will graduate (from the police academy) in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — a total of 15,000 new men,” said Granados, who congratulated his predecessor Ricardo Casal for the idea of installing decentralized academies.
Both Casal and Granados were appointed by Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, who, since taking office, has displayed a tough-on-crime discourse and abandoned all previous police reform attempts.
“We’ll receive 10,000 men from the federal forces and up to 10,000 retired police officers,” Granados said. They will be assigned bureaucratic desk jobs “so police officers who are now not assigned security tasks can patrol the streets,” the former Ezeiza mayor added.
He was flanked by Scioli’s right-hand man and Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez.

‘An illusion’
Sociologist Gabriel Kessler told the Herald he thinks there’s a budget issue at stake that Granados is choosing to ignore.
“The province has chronic budgetary problems. How are they going to double the police workforce?” Kessler asked himself.
However, the author of Sociology of Amateur Crime said other main issues are still open to debate.
“They’re trying to sell the illusion of a fully-controlled territory, the idea that crime can only be tackled through patrolling.”
Moreover, security measures should not be just deployment for deployment’s sake. Where will these new forces go? Who is going to run them? Another problem involves some of those retirees to be called back, Kessler stressed.
“The province needs to know why they abandoned the force,” he said. Were they removed from the force? Were they too old for the job? Did they have experience with a different police culture? All these questions remain unsolved, the sociologist said.

‘Low salaries’
Arslanián recalled a final problem that has already been pointed out by Horacio Verbitsky, head of the Legal and Social Studies Centre (CELS in Spanish), in pro-government newspaper Página/12 — salaries.
According to the former Security minister, officers who work in the Buenos Aires provincial police earn a lot less than those working for the relatively new Metropolitan Police set by Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri. They are paid even less than the already low wages paid to Federal Police forces, he added.
“Metropolitan Police is paying good salaries and is able to ‘suck’ some of the provincial workforce dry,” Arslanián explained.
This is another obstacle if the goal is to add several tens of thousands of police officers to the current workforce. For now, Granados’ promise is just that — a promise.