Monday, December 3, 2018

G-20? The Buenos Aires Aftermath (With a Nod to FDR)

In early 2016, on the occasion of President Barack Obama’s trip to Buenos Aires, I wrote a short summary of US presidents’ visits to Argentina. It started with Theodore Roosevelt (an ex-president at the time of his visit) and continued with Dwight D. Eisenhower, the recently deceased George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Now, for better or worse (evidence suggests the latter), it’s time for an update.
More than a few Argentines thought little of George W. Bush.
Over the weekend, as almost everybody knows, Donald Trump traveled to Argentina’s capital for the annual G-20 summit of the world’s leading economies, at the Centro Costa Salguero (not far from our apartment in Palermo). With concerns about security, the Argentine government declared Friday a holiday and encouraged people to leave town for a long weekend. Trains and subways were shut down for the duration and, from all accounts, the city felt like a ghost town.
Trump's own punctuation, subconsciously at least, undermines his legitimacy.
In an interview today, Argentine president Mauricio Macri revealed that Trump didn’t even want to attend and, from his apparent disinterest in diplomacy, he couldn’t wait to get out. In fact, when Trump was supposed to join the other heads of state for a photo, he marched right past Macri and off the stage (though he eventually rejoined). He did assent to most of the conference’s outcomes with the notable exception of the Paris agreements on climate change, where his denial of the issues makes the US a pariah on the most critical environmental crisis of these times. Ironically enough, in a tweet he issued today, he appears to have doubts about his own legitimacy.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the streets of Buenos Aires, 1936
When I wrote the previous article, I was unaware that Franklin D. Roosevelt—arguably the greatest president ever—had visited the Argentine capital in 1936, on an extended cruise through the Americas (at the time, there was no Air Force One to jet the chief executive overseas). Roosevelt spent only three days in Buenos Aires, from November 30 to December 2, addressing the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace. One of his goals was to encourage a front of opposition to encroaching European fascism. The text of his speech is online at the FDR Presidential Library.

It’s noteworthy that, in 1961, local authorities changed the name of Calle Guanacache, in the northern barrio of Belgrano, to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The current White House occupant, who’s succeeded in making the rest of the world share the skepticism that many Argentines always do of US presidents, is unlikely ever to achieve any such recognition.

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