Argentina’s Foreign Policy: Actors and Institutions

Who are the relevant actors in the creation of national foreign policy and what structures do they operate within?

The executive branch controls foreign policy in Argentina. It is composed of six secretaries, 10 ministers, a ministerial chief, and one military liaison; all appointed by the President.[1] While citizens have the right to propose legislation through their provincial representatives, the legislature does not have the right to decide issues related to foreign policy or international treaties. The president has the power to name and remove ministers, ambassadors and consular officers, sign international treaties, and regulate foreign trade through commercial agreements. The president is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces but must consult with the Senate and military high command before deploying military forces.

The current President of Argentina is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (b.1953), the wife of former president Néstor Kirchner. She is a lawyer and longtime member of the Peronist (PJ) party, before becoming President she was a national senator between 1995 and 1997. Fernández was then elected to the national Chamber of Deputies between 1997 and 2001 and in 2001 was reelected to the national senate where she served until her appointment as president for the period 2007 – 2011.

The foreign policy decision making process involves a complex mixture of internal and external variables. Given the 2001 economic collapse that bankrupt the country, forced over 58 percent of the population into poverty, and led to the overthrow of successive interim presidents, Argentinean politicians are very sensitive to public opinion.[2] This historical context is relevant to the decision making process because it places an unusually high value on public opinion in the arena of foreign policy.

Public opinion is generated through a number of social organizations, provincial governors, government officials, and the media all play an important role in shaping the discourse and conditions that affect general opinion. Labor syndicates like the Confederación General de Trabajo (CGT) and the Movimiento de Trabajadores Argentinos (MTA) play an important role in grass roots mobilizations. Another important factor in the creation of public opinion is the piqueteros. The piqueteros are community groups that take part in social protests, usually in the form of road blocks, to demand better social conditions from the government.[3] The key difference between the syndicates and the piqueteros is that the piqueteros are usually groups or communities of unemployed persons who are more prone to use violence as a means of social protest.[4] However, it is not uncommon for the groups to mix or even take part in the same protests.

By Nathan Gill – Southern Affairs

Painting by Shee, “Le passage et le passion”

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[1] Argentina Foreign Ministry Website. [2] World Bank. Argentina – Crisis and Poverty 2003: A Poverty Assessment. vol. 1: Main Report, no. 26127-AR. 24 July 2003: 3. 4 Nov. 2006. [3] Clarín. Piqueteros: La Cara Oculta del fenómeno. 2002 Accessed 26 Oct. 2006. [4] Clarín. Piqueteros: La Cara Oculta del fenómeno. 2002 Accessed 26 Oct. 2006.

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