The continuing agricultural crisis has forced Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to cancel her visit to London for the summit of 'progressive governments' this weekend.
However, she has announced that she will still make a 24-hour visit to Paris on Monday to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The purpose of the brief visit is to boost bilateral ties and, apparently, to attempt to raise her profile in connection with international efforts to free French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt, held by the Colombian FARC rebels. Fernandez de Kirchner also hopes to sign a contract with the French company Natixis for the construction of a high-speed rail service, although the company is said to be demanding increased guarantees for the project.
The extent and strength of the agricultural protests that disrupted the London visit appear to have been underestimated by the government, which has claimed darkly that anti-government demonstrations have been orchestrated by the opposition. The decision to hold a pro-government rally on April 1 -- far more clearly orchestrated than those held by protesters against government policy -- and Fernandez de Kirchner's accusations that the agriculture and media sectors are seeking her overthrow have only worsened the political climate and pointed up the government's increasing isolation.
In a context of rising political uncertainty and concerns over the investment climate -- the export tax rises that provoked agricultural ire were imposed without consultation or congressional debate -- the French visit is unlikely to be successful in encouraging foreign investment. In the longer term, the poor political handling of the crisis and inflexibility over the tax issue and other unpopular elements of economic policy are likely to lead to new social protests.