Having concluded his visit to Cuba, president Obama is continuing his campaign of reconciliation in Argentina. Though there were no sanctions or travel restrictions for Obama to remove as there were with Cuba, the relationship between Argentina and the USA has been strained in recent decades.
Efforts by George W Bush to enact a free trade agreement between the Americas were abandoned after president Néstor Kirchner asserted that the Bush administration’s policies in the region had caused “misery and poverty.”
By contrast, current Argentinian president Mauricio Macri had expressed interest in improving relations with the USA prior to Obama’s visit. He has also made policy changes designed to bring in foreign investment. He hopes to increase bilateral trade and encourage American businesses to invest in Argentina’s renewable energy industry.
“I think that the gesture of President Obama’s visit is very important for us because it shows the interest and the priority of the U.S. administration,” Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said in a press conference on Monday.
In addition to encouraging greater economic cooperation between the two countries, there is hope that Obama’s visit will help Argentina and the USA bury the hatchet regarding the USA’s involvement in Argentina’s “dirty war.” Obama’s visit overlaps with the 40 year anniversary of the US-backed coup which led to the rule of a bloodthirsty dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983. Obama plans to pay respects to the victims of that dark period. It was also announced last week that the US would declassify documents from its military and intelligence agencies related to its involvement in Argentina’s dirty war.
“We’re determined to do our part as Argentina continues to heal and move forward as one nation,” said Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
While polls showed that the majority of Argentinians view Obama’s visit favorably, there is still a sense of bitterness and mistrust that is unlikely to disappear quickly.
“The truth is that our experience with the U.S. has historically not been good for Argentina,” said Fernanda Vallejos, economic adviser at the Argentina Congress. “The U.S. has intervened throughout history in an unfavorable way, economically and politically, in Argentina. Hopefully, this does not happen again.”