A citizen wears an Argentina flag during a peaceful demonstration honouring late Argentine state investigator Alberto Nisman outside the Argentina Embassy in Santiago.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Argentineans went to the polls on Sunday to choose a leader who will replace President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who has dominated Argentine politics for the last eight years. There remains a decent chance that the pro-business, pragmatic former mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, will overcome the Kirchner political machine to become Argentina’s next president.
If he does take the day when Argentineans go back to the polls for a second and final round of voting on November 22, it will be good for Argentina and good for the Jews.
Leading contender Daniel Scioli, a former vice president who has the full weight of the Kirchner political apparatus behind him, performed worse than expected. Macri came in second with a surprisingly strong showing. With 96 percent of the votes counted, Scioli was marginally ahead with 36.7% of the vote, while Macri had 34.5%.
Sergio Massa, a former ally of Kirchner turned opponent, came in third with 21.3%.
If Macri succeeds in garnering significant support from Massa’s constituents he might still have a chance. We cannot hide our hope that this will happen.
Macri has a pro-business orientation, desperately needed after Kirchner’s populist policies have ruined Argentina’s economy. A civil engineer by training, Macri has promised to introduce market-oriented changes aiming to loosen currency controls and lure investment.
He and his policies are best equipped to deal with Argentina’s high inflation rate, which reached 28.2% in 2014 according to the World Bank. The official, disputed, inflation rate in 2015 so far is 14.5%, though it is probably higher. The economy is expected to contract by 0.7% in 2016.
Besides being better for the economy, however, Macri is also better for the Jews. A number of prominent Jewish leaders are supporters of Macri’s center-right PRO (Partido Democrata Progresista). Perhaps the most well-known is Rabbi Sergio Bergman, who has been affiliated with both the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and the Reform Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Bergman is Argentina’s first rabbi to become a national congressman.
Waldo Wolff, former vice president of the Delegation of Argentine-Israeli Associations (DAIA) the political arm of AMIA, left his post in June to join PRO and run for a congressional seat in the Buenos Aires area.
Claudio Avruj, president of the Holocaust Museum, is another prominent Jewish Argentinean who is a strong supporter of Macri.
There is a reason why Macri has managed to receive so much support from prominent Jews. Macri is unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American. He has visited Israel and maintains excellent ties with the Jewish community in Argentina.
Macri and members of his PRO party have done more than any other politicians to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the Jewish special prosecutor who had investigated the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.
He sharply contrasts with Kirchner, who has worked hard to discredit Nisman by accusing him of being under the sway of the CIA and the Mossad. She has guided Argentina’s foreign policy in a decidedly anti-Western direction, strengthening ties with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, while attacking the US for being under the sway of right-wing Jewish “vulture” fund managers who made their fortunes by charging “usurious interest” and to whom Argentina owes millions of dollars.
The low point came on January 27, 2013, when Kirchner confirmed rumors circulating since 2011 that Argentina was in secret negotiations with Iran. Despite well-founded suspicions – backed up by evidence obtained by Nisman – that the Iranians were behind the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Kirchner signed a memorandum of understanding that included setting up a “truth commission” that would convene in Tehran and cultivating improved commercial ties between the two countries.
Macri has a chance of changing the course of Argentina, a country with tremendous potential that has suffered over the years from bad political leadership. If Macri succeeds in beating Kirchner protégé Scioli in the next and final round of presidential elections, it will be good for the Jews, but it will also be good for Argentina