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As a female president, Mrs Kirchner is inevitably compared to the legendary Eva Perón, wife of the founder of the populist Peronist movement which still dominates Argentine politics today. A better comparison would be with Marie Antoinette: Argentines struggling to make a living were stunned this past summer to read of the presidential plane delivering the national newspapers to Kirchner, on holiday in Santa Cruz, at a daily cost to the taxpayer of £20,000. The plane is also said to be at the service of her family.

Mrs Kirchner artfully cast herself as Evita's successor when she started out in politics while denying anything of the sort, and to this day she trades on her femininity and her own personal tragedy, only recently addressing the nation on television to inveigh against the "vultures" while invoking the memory of her late husband as the man who had taken them on in the first place. The election of an Argentine Pope came as a godsend (almost literally); Mrs Kirchner has visited Rome three times already to be photographed (in suitable black) with Pope Francis.

But her constant attacks on her enemies, real and imagined, may not be as effective as she imagines. Many Argentines are tired of the government's constant hectoring. One leading journalist commented: "What riles me, and many Argentines who are not fanatics for any side, is that every dispute is presented as if it were the storming of the Bastille."

When she leaves office, Mrs Kirchner, who recovered from life-threatening brain surgery last year, will undoubtedly be taken up by the world's celebrity political windbag circuit. She will not lack for creature comforts: the Kirchners are believed to have amassed a tidy fortune by shrewd property dealing in Santa Cruz. The saddest aspect of her legacy, however, is a charge that can be levelled at every Argentine political leader since Juan Domingo Perón: that they have squandered the assets that should have consolidated Argentina, blessed with rich natural and human resources, as the most stable and prosperous country in Latin America instead of an international basket case.
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