BUENOS AIRES -- When Cristina Kirchner was elected in October to succeed her husband as president of Argentina, he guaranteed he would let his wife stand on her own two feet. "I would do very badly by interfering," Nestor Kirchner said.
But Mr. Kirchner couldn't help but interfere when Mrs. Kirchner faced her first domestic political challenge, helping to turn a dispute with farmers into a full-blown political disaster.
Mr. Kirchner's heavy-handed meddling and Mrs. Kirchner's erratic behavior helped stoke 100 days of disruptive protests by farmers after the government changed the tax on soybean exports, which had been fixed at 35%, so that it would shift in line with rising international prices.
Mrs. Kirchner's approval ratings have plunged, the economy has reeled and the government's conflicting messages have caused many Argentines to ask: Who is really in charge, Cristina or Nestor?
Mrs. Kirchner has, at times, seemed more flexible toward farmers, who are demanding the government repeal the tax increase. Tuesday, Mrs. Kirchner, moving to cool off growing political tensions, said she would send the proposed tax change to Congress for debate and approval.
Mr. Kirchner has been unwavering in his hostility toward farmers, whom he sees as a power-hungry coterie that seeks to undermine the government.
There have been open conflicts in Mrs. Kirchner's cabinet between Cristinos, loyal to her, and Nestoristas, beholden to him. At a political event in April, TV cameras captured her first economy minister, Martin Lousteau, who was pushing for negotiation with farmers, arguing heatedly with Internal Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno, a Nestorista who favored a hard line. Mr. Moreno ended the discussion with a throat-cutting gesture. Not long afterward, Mr. Lousteau quit in frustration and was replaced by one of Mr. Kirchner's men.
The confusion grew more acute a few weeks ago when the couple didn't seem to be on the same page about a massive rally of 200,000 farm supporters in the city of Rosario. Cabinet chief Alberto Fernandez, the government's main negotiator with the farmers, was traveling with Mrs. Kirchner and said the government would make a new proposal to farmers on the soybean tax. The next day, after he spoke to Mr. Kirchner in Buenos Aires, Mr. Fernandez said there would be no new proposal and no more talks.
That same week, Mrs. Kirchner called for a "tolerant, democratic and respectful Argentina." Her husband, as head of the Peronist party, drafted a blistering statement calling the farm protesters "coup- mongers" who aimed to topple the government.
Whatever we get in November, it least it won't be Billary and this kind of tomfoolery!