Argentina is the only major player in Latin America with a forward looking agenda that offers hope to its people.
In the crush of events that always weigh down a US president, and the daily eruptions of the 2016 election campaign, it would be a monumental mistake to underestimate the importance of President Barack Obama’s recent meeting with newly elected Argentine President Mauricio Macri. US outreach to Latin America never seems to garner sufficient priority, and the personal attention by Obama to one of the most interesting new leaders in a hugely influential country south of the border should not go unremarked.
Macri’s electoral victory in 2015 represents a long awaited change from the path taken by many of Argentina’s neighbors, where corruption and ineptitude seem pervasive in places like Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil. Succeeding Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose fame, or infamy, rested on her accommodations with neighborhood thugs—not to mention her various deals with Iran’s ayatollahs—Macri brings to Casa Rosada the promise of a new day for his people and a new model for Latin America.
The most important changes in the short term are his efforts to resurrect Argentina’s economy, to restore investor faith in open markets, and to carry out honorable agreements to pay down the nation’s huge debts. Unlike his predecessor and many of the continent’s failed leaders, Macri is already demonstrating that he has the confidence to build a warm two-way relationship with the US without concern that it will suffocate his nation, a particular fear of every South American leader.
The visit of a US president to Buenos Aires also serves as a challenge to Macri to fulfill his potential as a historic figure throughout the Western Hemisphere by replacing the old cabal. Along with his decisive early steps to enact economic reforms, Macri abrogated Argentina’s tendentious deals with Iran to whitewash Tehran’s role in sponsoring and financing its terrorist agent, the Lebanese Hezbollah, in bombings that took the lives of scores of Argentine Jews.
Obama’s visit took place in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Brussels on March 22, and some of the president’s critics suggested he should have aborted the trip and hurried back to Washington. But his wise decision to travel to Argentina to embrace the change that Macri represents is unarguable in terms of advancing US, regional and global interests. Standing with Macri, President Obama is making it clear that the United States is an ally of elected leaders committed to democracy and human rights.
With Venezuela on the brink of economic collapse and Brazil’s leadership almost certainly facing impeachment charges, Argentina is the only major player in the region with a forward looking agenda that offers hope to its people.
Obama’s embrace of Macri is a long-term strategic play that propels the new Argentine president to the forefront of Latin America’s new generation of leaders. In a rather bleak world where good news is hard to find, President Macri’s emerging role on the world stage is one of the most welcome developments in recent years.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: Presidencia de la Nacion Argentina