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Benjamin Kunkel reports from Buenos Aires

n+1 editor Benjamin Kunkel has been living in self-imposed exile in Argentina for several years, and the first fruit of foreign life—besides his travel essay on Patagonia—is his wide-ranging reflection on the country’s recent Bicentennial. Though most recently in the news for their dominating soccer team, coached by madman Diego Maradona and led by the greatest player in the world, the (scoreless) Lionel Messi, Argentina has been branded most notably by two non-exportable phenomena: Peronism and the 2002 debt crisis that destroyed the country’s economy. “Argentina’s waves of economic trouble, its notorious squandering of potential,” Kunkel writes, “have made it an irresistible object lesson in how not to run a country.” Meanwhile, the gravity-defying Peronism—a nationalist ideology magically encompassing both left and right, deriving from “the jowly sphinx of Argentine history, Juan Domingo Perón”—has been the hegemonic influence in Argentinian politics for decades. Kunkel’s essay shows how Argentina’s always deferred economic promise gave birth to many varieties of Peronist experience—as well as a murderous period of military juntas in the ’70s and early ’80s, in which tens of thousands of civilians were “disappeared”—which in turn led to a colossal overvaluation of the currency and collapse of the economic system at the opening of the new millennium. Kunkel ponders the Peronist couple currently holding the reins, President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner and her husband, the prior president, Nestor Kirchner, and the various possible futures that the country, despite the many dead-ends of its tragic past, still entertains.

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