Robert Fulford sees lots of similarities between Argentina and Canada, except the one difference that makes all the difference:
In some ways it’s much like Canada, a huge one-time colony with a talented population and endless natural resources — arable land, oil and gas and much else.
Except it is not like Canada. It doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is that it lacks a reliable, careful government, not subject to sudden bouts of hysteria. Argentina has few of the boring politicians who irritate people like Sid.
Public life in Argentina expresses itself through spasms of showmanship, braggadocio, paranoia and demagoguery. It’s the land of the eternal crisis, where a military coup is never unthinkable.
Argentina’s many economic failures, generation after generation, are self-created, politically induced. In all the world there’s no more obvious example of a nation that has squandered, through flawed governance, the riches provided by nature.
This week Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina, and the widow of the last president, announced she’s grabbing YPF, the country’s biggest energy company, taking it from Spain’s Repsol. Cristina, as she’s usually called in Argentina, thinks she can run YPF better than the Spanish. Of course the Spanish are furious and will sue as well as blacken Argentina’s name wherever possible. What Cristina has announced is a brazen, heedless act, with nothing to recommend it but high-handed nationalist fury.
Yet Cristina believes that when you encounter economic trouble, the best course is to strike out against something foreign. At the moment she’s also making anti-British noises, agitating to annex the Falklands Islands, which Argentina seized in 1982 and had to give back when it lost the war with the U.K. Somehow the Falklands (called the Malvinas in Argentina) are linked with the oil-company seizure as nationalist issues. A T-shirt has appeared on Cristina’s supporters: “The Malvinas are Argentine, so is YPF.”