Higgins makes visit to Argentina
The turmoil in the global economy once again dominated the agenda of President Michael D Higgins's tour of South America, which entered its final leg in Buenos Aires today.
Shortly after his arrival from Brazil, Mr Higgins went to the Casa Rosada where he was received by an honour guard provided by the grenadiers of the San Martín regiment before meeting Argentina’s president Cristina Kirchner in the presidential palace’s White Salon.
Speaking after their meeting, Mr Higgins said the two had agreed on “the necessity of getting the idea of alternative economic models, ones that would be inclusive and that would address the poverty and equality and employment, onto the G20 agenda”.
Argentina has become one of the most outspoken critics of the current arrangements of the global economy and is locked in a dispute with IMF over the quality of its economic statistics.
The IMF has given Argentina, which has been under-reporting inflation since 2007, until December 17th to outline how it will correct its data or else become the first country to be censured by the organisation for inaccurate reporting of economic information.
In a wide-ranging conversation that lasted over an hour President Higgins said they also discussed Argentina’s sovereignty dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands in light of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Kirchner reiterated Argentina’s demand that the Falkland Islanders halt oil and gas exploration in waters around the archipelago.
Mr Higgins said his counterpart had said it was very important that there be no activities in the South Atlantic such as would prejudice the possibility of genuine and real dialogue.
She had also recognised that in any negotiations “the position of the islanders would be presented by Britain”. Argentina refuses to talk directly with the Falkland Islanders who overwhelming want to retain their status as a British overseas territory.
Britain says that it will not talk to Argentina until it recognises the right of the Falklanders to take part in any discussions about their future.
The two also discussed human rights. Since Néstor Kirchner came to power in 2003 Argentina has overturned the amnesty for human rights abuses which the country’s military forced on fragile civilian governments following the return of democracy in 1983.
This has opened the door for prosecutions of surviving members of the military juntas that ruled the country between 1976-1983, as well as of many of the junior officers who helped murder or disappear over 10,000 people in the so-called ‘dirty war’.
At the meeting Mrs Kirchner presented Mr Higgins with four football tops, one of the Argentinian national side and those of three local football clubs named after William Brown, the Foxford, Co. Mayo man who founded the Argentinian navy during its struggle for independence from Spain.
Presented with the jerseys Mr Higgins joked with his host in Spanish, asking “And Boca’s?” referring to Boca Juniors, Argentina’s most popular club.
Mrs Kirchner later showed Mr and Mrs Higgins around the Casa Rosada, including a visit to the Salon of ArgentinianWomen, inaugurated to commemorate country’s bicentenary celebrations in 2010.
Among the women celebrated for the contribution to the country’s development is Cecilia Grierson, Argentina’s first woman doctor who was of Irish and Scottish descent.
A major focus of the president’s visit to Argentina is the country’s Irish diaspora. Later today he will deliver a lecture on the links between the two countries before meeting representatives of the local Irish community, the largest in Latin America, followed by a ceremony honouring Admiral Brown in the city’s Plaza Irlanda.