Paul Jacob

I arrived in Buenos Aires a few days ago, and didn’t stay long. It wasn’t an official event, not even a Fact Finding Expedition. My main business was in Montevideo, Uruguay, where I attended the 2012 Global Forum on Direct Democracy. Citizens in Charge, an organization I spearhead, had sponsored the previous Global Forum, held in San Francisco, and my interest in citizen participation in government has not decreased over time. And yet, this little “vacation” was more than relevant. For interesting things are happening in Argentina.

Things pertaining to citizen-powered government.

It’s neither a major referendum nor a citizen-initiated measure, the chief topics this week in Montevideo. But it’s something like recall, the ousting of a sitting politician. Specifically, it’s the public, widespread protest against motions and rumors that Argentina’s current president is trying to squirm out from under executive term limits.

The president in the news is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. She had entered office as the wife of the previous president, Néstor Kirchner. The couple had a plan: to take alternate runs for the position, thereby weaseling around the country’s term limit of two consecutive terms. This way, they could rule for an indefinite period.

But there is something more certain than term limits and constitutions. Death — which took Néstor in 2010. So now Cristina is sending up smoke signals to the effect that she would like to change the constitution in order to run again.

Shades of Peronista dynastic rule . . . and tyranny.

When Mrs. Kirchner won her election, five years ago, I had some advice: “Don’t cheer for Cristina, Argentina.” Thankfully, the Argentines aren’t cheering. In Beunos Aires, “Throngs of people banged pots and pans Thursday, as they protested government policies in Argentina,” relates a CNN report:

The massive march was the latest in a series of “cacerolazos,” protests named for the cooking pots participants hit to draw attention to problems they say are growing in the South American nation, including crime rates, inflation and political corruption.
Many demonstrators said a key issue drove them to the streets: the possibility that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner could push through changes to the country's constitution and run for re-election.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.