Cristina Elizabet Fernández de Kirchner, current President of Argentina, has been in the global political spotlight since her election in 2007. After serving as the First Lady of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner, as President of the country. In her last three years in office, however, Kirchner has faced immense challenges, including civil unrest, inflation, and national and foreign debt.
Kirchner, born February 19, 1953, received a law degree from the National University of La Plata and became involved in the Peronist Youth Movement (a division of the Justicialist Party) in the 1970s. After practicing law with her husband in Río Gallegos for several years, she served in the Santa Cruz Provincial Legislature in the early 1990s. In 1995, Fernández was elected to the Argentine Senate, representing Santa Cruz, and she served briefly in the Chamber of Deputies beginning in 1997 before returning to the Senate in 2001.
Kirchner won the Argentine Presidential election in 2007 with 45.3% of the first round of votes (45% is needed to win). Kirchner was popular with rural and working class Argentines. She lost the election, however, in Argentina’s three largest cities: Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Rosario. Although Kirchner’s election made her the most powerful Latin American woman in the world, her Presidential term has been riddled with challenges that have often placed her unfavorably in the foreign policy spotlight.
By 2008, only one year after holding office, Kirchner’s approval ratings were below thirty percent. Facing farmers’ strikes, unrelenting inflation, political scandals, and an economy in recession, Kirchner has made decisions that have brought her from being a national symbol of pride and optimism to being accused of destroying Argentina’s economic system. Although she compares herself to Evita and Hilary Clinton, her political tactics—including accusing farmers of coup-plotting, limiting press freedom, raising taxes on soy (Argentina’s main export), and attempting to nationalize the nation’s pension funds—have caused many Argentines to accuse Kirchner of authoritarianism.
Kirchner’s presidency, like so many others during the economic recession, has certainly had its challenges. As one of the most powerful women in the world, however, Kirchner remains an important figure in global politics and one to watch during the final year of her presidential term.