Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner talks exclusively to RT

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino)
Argentina’s President Kirchner exclusively spoke to RT in her first interview to a foreign media outlet in five years. She said there’s no reason that Russia and Argentina shouldn't have bilateral ties, adding that viewing Russia a threat is “absurd.”

RT:Thank you for sitting down with RT, we know you have a very busy schedule. This year Russia and Argentina mark 130 years of bilateral diplomatic relations. Tell us about your feelings after your meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Christina Fernandez de Kirchner: I think it’s more about confidence than feelings as such: feelings are just feelings after all, and confidence is the most important thing. I’m talking about the confidence in the strengthening ties between Russia and Argentina, which are in no way inferior now to what they have been in the course of the previous 130 years. We have continuity, and it transcends brotherly relations or cultural exchange, moving on to more serious projects. Today we signed 11 agreements, including the one on constructing the Chihuido 1 dam. Russia and Argentina have a longstanding cooperation when it comes to construction and supply of hydropower turbines. More than 4,300 megawatts of Argentina’s energy capacity comes from Russia, including the hydropower turbines of the Salto Grande power plant located between Uruguay and Argentina. In other words, signing the contract on theChihuido1 today is an important milestone for our hydropower industry.

But today we made a big leap because we signed two agreements on building the sixth nuclear reactor [at the Atucha power plant] in Argentina. As you know, in Latin America Argentina is the country with the biggest knowledge and experience when it comes to nuclear energy projects. We design, build and sell nuclear reactors. We built nuclear reactors for Egypt, Algeria and Australia, where we had to compete with other countries, including France, which is a major player in the nuclear energy sphere. Nevertheless, we won that tender a couple of years ago.

Moreover,the National Atomic Energy Commission and our Russian counterparts signed key agreements aimed at strengthening cooperation in the sphere of research and provision of uranium metal from Russia to Argentina. We signed agreements concerning cultural ties as well as an agreement between Gazprom and YPF, our main energy company that was privatized but now has been renationalized. This agreement with Gazprom, which is the biggest natural gas producer in the world, includes cooperation in exploring the second biggest shale gas reservoir in the world, as well as the fourth biggest shale oil reservoir, which are both located in our country.

We also signed important agreements on agriculture and economy. We signed 11 economic agreementsand also a joint statement with President Putin that established an all-encompassing strategic partnership between our countries, including cooperation in the political sphere. It has to do not only with our bilateral relations, but also with the way we should approach global issues and also with our stance on the role of the UN, non-interference in domestic affairs of other countries and Russia’s unwavering and much valued support in the Malvinas Islands issue. We also expressed our support for the Resolution 2202 adopted on February 17, 2015, that calls for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. I believe this visit to Russia was very fruitful. Of course, I should also mention Russia continuously supporting our fight against the vulture funds.

RT:Madam President, closer ties with Argentina is not a unique development on the regional level, as Russia has strengthened relations with other Latin American countries as well.

CK: You are absolutely right.

RT:That creates a certain pushback, which is obvious to anyone who follows the news. You talked about it at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, pointing out that Venezuela cannot possibly pose a threat to the US and noting Britain’s intention to boost its military presence under the pretext of the strengthening ties between Russia and Argentina and raise the question of Argentina posing a threat to the Malvinas. Was it just a coincidence or the result of Russia establishing closer relations with the Latin American countries?

CK: There are no coincidences in politics. In politics, there’s strategy, geopolitics and interests, which together result in this or that country making this or that step. In this case, we’re talking about Britain. Out of the 17 colonies that remained in the world after the decolonization process that took place in Latin America and other countries in the 19thand 20thcenturies, ten still belong to Britain, which carries on with its colonial practice. I think that first of all it’s part of Cameron’s election campaign on a global level, as the elections are coming up. So he decided to use intimidation, like with little children: eat your soup or the communists will come get you. That’s the approach of the previous century.

I think that many people, despite saying that the Cold War is over and the standoffs are all in the past, that we live in a more global world now, still apply moral dualism, i.e. they need an enemy to oppose. I believe this enemy-friend dualism has to stop, because it results in simply unbearable situations, among other things. That’s why today Mr. Putin and I signed a joint statement that touches upon dialogue, politics, diplomacy, multilateral cooperation and the role of the UN as the only possible means to stop and resolve conflicts.

So Ithink this was just an intimidation attempt, because like I said at the Summit of the Americas, no one in their right mind would consider a Latin American country a threat to a key global power in a military or scientific or any other respect. We have to acknowledge the new players in the established multipolar world. There is still a belief that modern world history ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. But history never ends, it continues and it changes all the time, and that’s good. New players, new history and new circumstances appear. I believe Russia is a global player and its participation in the world affairs is a given, so I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t have bilateral relations between our countries. By the way, the second largest investor in Argentina is the US. Out of the 500 biggest American companies, 100 operate in Argentina. So seriously considering Russia a threat is just absurd. It would make sense to stress over the American presence in Argentina then, especially considering the latest developments in the world.

RT:Madam President, what’s your take on the domestic opposition?

CK: It will always be there. However, it often comes to the forefront during election campaigns. And in case of Argentina, there’s an issue that people are stuck in the old mentality, as I call it.

They still live in a world where everyone looked to the north. But those days are gone. Indeed, we cannot completely ignore the US and the role it plays in global governance. But let’s face it – apart from the US, you also have China, Russia, South-East Asia, India, and we need to sustain trade and political ties with these countries. We live in a new world where no-one can have monopoly on friendship and relationship. It might be the case with personal relations, but when we talk about state level, I think we must maintain ties with all these countries.

RT:During your visit to Moscow, you unveiled an exhibition dedicated to Eva Peron, a major figure in the history of Argentina.

CK: Indeed, she’s one of the greatest personalities.

RТ:Eva was one of the female leaders in the history of Argentina. Recently, your government has been widely criticized. Do you think it’s because you are the first elected president of the country or it is because of the policies that run counter to someone’s interests?

CK: It’s a mix. You know, if I as a woman would do everything they want me to do, they would certainly praise my actions and call me a smart and talented woman. But if I do something wrong, the fact that I am a woman is perceived as an aggravating circumstance, so it’s like a double sin.

Apparently, gender discrimination is still part of politics. Anyway, the criticism that you refer to is most likely linked to policies in domestic affairs, social, economic and cultural sectors. Look at Margaret Thatcher, she was a woman but was welcomed by all major states. So women in politics don’t always invite constant criticism from the powers that be. Eva Peron was under fire back in my country because she protected the poor. You can come to the museum dedicated to her life and listen to her speeches to better understand her agenda. She died at 33, still a young woman.

Here’s a simple analogy for you. Imagine you are the head of Disneyland – naturally, people would love you because everyone loves Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck. There are no conflicts in the Disney world. What you are going to do there? Walk around the forest and orchards, giving away candies.

Butif you are at the helm of a country like Argentina, like Nеstor Kirchner in 2003, you have to deal with a 25 percent unemployment rate and a debt worth 160 percent of GDP, a host of social issues, poverty as high as 54 percent, and so on. So when you are trying to improve things, for example by re-distributing wealth to spur growth, you are bound to have people who disagree.

You know, people say hatred is the flip side of love. It’s difficult to make people hate you. It’s much easier to leave people indifferent if you are mediocre.

RT:Do you take it too close to heart? You were criticized a lot when you tried to continue working on some of the projects…

CK: I just gulp it down with water. Simple water. I don’t drink alcohol. I love water, that’s the only thing I drink. I might have some cider at festivals, I do like it but only if there is an occasion.

…Anyway, I take it as a statesman. My political career started long before I was elected president.

RT:Do you are not offended at all?

CK: Certainly, it would be better if they would say how beautiful I am. But in politics that’s impossible. When we took the decision to bring back control over pension savings, private corporations who made billions on managing those savings were against it. People were not able to get into the pay-as-you-go pension system, and it was the government who still had to pay pensions. So when corporations lose a business that brought them 75 billion peso in revenues, they are highly likely to hate you. You might even end up in a car collision or something if they want to. But if you stick to your political views, you have to take this risk. The same happens when you say no to powerful financial institutions. Argentina needed a new approach to its foreign debt, and said: ‘Look, this is what we can pay, but we can’t pay more than that’. We think that the debt must be shared by Argentina and those you invested in the country, I mean the funds that wanted a 15 percent annual rate of return in dollar terms while everyone around the world only gets 2 percent, which is considered enough.

Like when you come to bank that promises you a 20 percent interest rate on your deposit while most other banks offer 2 percent, you must think twice – it may so happen that the bank won’t return your money. We then said: ‘Okay, capitalism is about risk, let’s share the risk’. Anyway, we paid more than Enron, the notorious US corporation. It only paid out 10 cents for every dollar that shareholders put into it.

RT:Madam President! Your second presidential term is coming to its end and the election campaign is already on in Argentina. What do you think of it?

CK: First of all, I am proud that I am the author of the new electoral system. I had my share of failures as an MP, and after that I worked hard to make our political parties more democratic, to make primaries open and mandatory, so that it’s the people, not political parties, who would pick candidates for the election. This new approach has made Argentina’s politics more democratic, and I am very proud of it. I am happy that we live in a democracy, that all people take part in shaping the country’s future.

RT:Do you have any favorites in the race or maybe you’d rather skip that question?

CK: Favorites are for the royalty. No, in a democracy we don’t think in these terms. It’s has nothing to do with a democracy. Favorites belong to a monarchy.

RT:You mentioned the reform of the election system in Argentina. But there’s one item still outstanding – the reform of the judiciary.

CK: Absolutely. This is what we still have to do. The nation demands a more democratic justice system. This is confirmed by opinion polls. People think that the government doesn’t focus on the issue, that changes are happening too slowly. Overall, there are many problems. Our job was to empower people as that they can influence the government agencies that control and assess the performance of judges. It must be direct representatives of the people, not political parties, who have this authority. This was one of the reforms that we put forward. We didn’t succeed in it but I am confident that sooner or later the reform will be implemented – in line with the expectations of our nation.

It takes time. When I was senator, I pushed for a draft law to make domestic politics more democratic. But the bill failed because no-one supported it. People often fall into despair in such moments. But I pushed harder and eventually the bill was approved and took effect. I’ll give you another example. When we proposed mandatory primaries, no-one thought it’s going to work, even my colleagues. Governors said no-one would come out to vote. But the result was astounding, both at the primaries and the final vote. The turnout was very high, marking a genuine change towards a more democratic political system. Everyone thought it was possible, but we made it possible. Yes, it took many years. So why can’t we hope that we will see a more democratic judicial system sometime in the future? And I am certain that this is bound to happen.

RT:Madam President, we are running out of time here… There have been some significant developments in your personal life since you became president. You are now a grandmother, you have two grandchildren.

CK: That’s true.

RT:We recently learned about this. How did you take the news? Were you happy?

CK: Yes, it’s wonderful. Of course, the mother was the happiest person…

RT:Is that right?

CK: Yes, yes. And also the Dad. And me, as the grandmother – obviously!

RT:What do you think your life will be like after December 10, 2015, when you leave office? Will you be spending more time with family or..?

CK: You want me to retire and stay home with the grandkids?

RT:No, I am just asking where you see yourself.

CK: This is an interesting question. I get asked that a lot. December 10 will mark eight years of my presidency. I am 62 years old. If you subtract 8 from 62, you will see that I was something else, not the president of Argentina, for most of my life.

RT:But this is not just some government office…

CK: Of course not! For someone in public service, this is the top job to get. But you can become president and not make history. Or become part of history due to some other reason. So I think what you do is more important than your title. I know many former presidents, some of whom are still alive. And if I had a say in the matter I wouldn’t choose to be like them, to be that kind of president. So the most important thing in life is what you do, not the office you hold.

RT:Madam President, thank you very much!