Argentina leader slammed for 'racist' tweets on China visit

Argentina leader slammed for 'racist' tweets on China visit
President Cristina Kirchner

ARGENTINA'S President Cristina Kirchner was assailed at home and abroad yesterday, after undiplomatic tweets during a state visit to China in which she seemingly poked fun at Asian difficulties pronouncing the letters L and R.

Ms Kirchner, 61, on a mission to China to expand trade and political ties, tweeted in Spanish on the number of people attending one of her events in Beijing, asking: "Are they all with La Campola?"

She was referring to La Campora, her party's youth organisation, led by her son.

"Or, are they only there for the lice (rice) and petloleum (petroleum)?" she added.

It was a play on a political joke in Argentina - Ms Kirchner's detractors say her supporters only attend party events so that they can get a free sandwich and soft drink.

After the tweets triggered criticism and accusations of racism, she followed up with another, saying: "Sorry. You know what? There is too, too much craziness and absurdity, only humour can get you through it."

The Argentinian President is already under the spotlight at home after the suspicious death of a prosecutor.

While the tweet was prominently covered in the Argentinian and international media, China's government-run news outlets carried no mention of the gaffe or commented on its diplomatic implications.

But netizens on Chinese social media sites were disdainful, with some pointing out that Ms Kirchner was referring to more of a Japanese tendency than a Chinese one.

"How about you say two sentences in Mandarin so I can hear your pronunciation?" asked one.

Another user on microblogging site Sina Weibo added: "Amazing, she has the courage to beg for investment while at the same time ridiculing Chinese people."

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Argentina in July, and the two countries announced Chinese plans for investments totalling US$7 billion (S$9.4 billion) in industries including hydroelectric power, shipbuilding, railways and a deal to help Argentina build its fourth nuclear plant.

China will contribute US$4.4 billion towards the construction of two hydroelectric dams in Argentina's southern Santa Cruz province, and put US$2.1 billion into rail transport.

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