Embattled Argentine President Cristina Kirchner cheerfully mugged for photos in the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong to ambush United States troops during the Vietnam War and likened Ho Chi Minh to George Washington during a visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on Sunday.
Kirchner playfully peeks her head out of one of the spiderholes in one photo. She sits cross-legged and grinning outside the tunnel, dressed in guerrilla-style fatigues, in another.
Kirchner’s trip to Vietnam is the latest in a string of moves that have seen Argentina’s increasingly isolated and belligerent government cozying up with authoritarian states. Argentina has cut arms deals with China and Venezuela under Kirchner in just the last year, and continues to escalate a war of words with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.
Kirchner flew to Southeast Asia on a rented plane out of fear her presidential jet might be seized by creditors as an Argentine naval vessel recently was in Ghana. The seizure of the Argentine Naval vessel Libertad was a humiliation for the Kirchner government, which continues to deal with fallout from the country’s 2001 debt default.
The government in Vietnam is one of the most repressive in the world. The ruling party “suppresses virtually all forms of political dissent,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Fourteen free speech activists were convicted earlier this month of “subversion of authorities” and sentenced to up to 13 years in prison in what has been described as a “sham trial.”
Kirchner arrived in Vietnam after a visit to Cuba where she posed for pictures with the enfeebled leader of that country’s Communist revolution Fidel Castro.