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Americas |​​NYT Now

Argentina’s President Mocks Chinese Accents During Visit to China

FEB. 4, 2015

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    Photo President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina waved while standing next to her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during a ceremony in Beijing on Wednesday. Credit Goh Chai Hin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

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    By ROBERT MACKEY

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    During a state visit to China on Wednesday, Argentina’s embattled president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, risked offending her hosts by joking about their accents on Twitter.

    Mrs. Kirchner, who was trying to promote trade and investment ties between the two nations, boasted on her official account that a forum she had attended in Beijing was attended by more than 1,000 business leaders. She then lapsed into broken Spanish to mock the way some Chinese speakers inadvertently mistake the “r” sound for an “l” in the Spanish words for goods they might exchange, “rice” and “petroleum,” as well as in the name of her party’s youth wing, La Cámpora.

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    102 empresas argentinas y más de 500 empresas chinas inscriptas en el seminario. pic.twitter.com/Zf3RUjP9l3

    — Cristina Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) Feb. 3, 2015
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    Más de 1.000 asistentes al evento… ¿Serán todos de “La Cámpola” y vinieron sólo por el aloz y el petlóleo? …

    — Cristina Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) Feb. 3, 2015

    Scarcely a minute later, as readers on the social network denounced her wordplay as racist and xenophobic, Mrs. Kirchner added a sort of apology.

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    @CFKArgentina ignorante, estúpida y racista, una joya vamos. Y esta es la representante de un país, pobrecitos argentinos

    — José Fernández (@fernanjos) Feb. 3, 2015
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    "Lice and petloleum" -- so while begging Beijing for money, Argentina's Kirchner mocks Chinese accent on twitter. http://t.co/A9z3rMD1AT

    — Alexander (@SaoSasha) Feb. 3, 2015

    After writing that she was “sorry,” the president complained that “levels of ridiculousness and absurdity are so high, they can only be digested with humor.”

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    Sorry. ¿Sabes qué? Es que es tanto el exceso del ridículo y el absurdo, que sólo se digiere con humor. Sino son muy, pero muy tóxicos.

    — Cristina Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) Feb. 3, 2015

    Despite the outraged response, the same comments were posted on the president’s official Facebook page 15 minutes later. Argentines quickly posted a raft of comments despairing of their president on both social networks, with tags based on the pidgin Spanish she had employed.

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    Cuando se elige x presidente a un ignorante, suceden estas cosas #Aloz

    — ImNotAnAngel (@aldanabtz) Feb. 3, 2015
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    #Aloz #Petlóleo #Clistina #Colupta

    — Ari Garcia BA (@AriGarciaBA) Feb. 3, 2015

    Five hours after the message was posted, the original tweet was not only still on Mrs. Kirchner’s Twitter account, but it was “pinned” to the very top of her page, a space usually reserved for updates users want to make sure all of their readers see.

    With the world's largest currency reserves, of nearly $4 trillion, China has become an increasingly important economic partner to Argentina, which has struggled financially since defaulting on bonds last year. As Bloomberg Business reported, the Chinese have helped Argentina strengthen its depleted central bank reserves through an agreement known as a currency swap.

    The official Twitter account of Argentina’s presidency later shared Mrs. Kirchner’s apology, without explaining what she was apologizing for, before attempting to redirect the attention of Argentine Twitter users to highlights of her reception by her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

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    CFK se reunió con Xi Jinping, ratificó la alianza con China y firmó 15 nuevos convenios bilaterales @CFKArgentina pic.twitter.com/b14XDcNmzE

    — Casa Rosada (@CasaRosadaAR) Feb. 3, 2015
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    La alianza estratégica con China tendrá una fuerte participación del empresariado argentino https://t.co/JrgiHeRYrX

    — Casa Rosada (@CasaRosadaAR) Feb. 3, 2015

    Chinese official media appeared to ignore Mrs. Kirchner’s tweets. State television presented an antiseptic account of her meeting with Mr. Xi, saying the two leaders “cemented political and economic ties.”

    Aside from Argentina's economic problems, Mrs. Kirchner has been struggling with a scandal at home over the mysterious death of a prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center. That prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had drafted a request for her arrest, the investigator looking into his death said Tuesday.

    The unusual tweets led some of the president’s critics to suggest that she might be cracking under pressure from the scandal. A leaked State Department cable published by the Spanish newspaper El País in 2010 revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office had asked the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires frank questions about Mrs. Kirchner’s “mental state and health” one year earlier. The cable specifically asked if Mrs. Kirchner was “managing her nerves and anxiety” by “taking any medications” that might help her “handle stresses” or “calm down when distressed.”

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