Argentina defense minister discusses South American politics

Josh Willis

Agustín Rossi, the Argentinian minister of defense, discussed foreign affairs and peace in Latin America at the LBJ School of Public Affairs
on Wednesday. 

Rossi, who spoke with a translator during the event, brought documents dated from the 1970s and 1980s to give to the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. 

Introducing Rossi, James Galbraith, government/business relations chair and government professor, said Rossi has had a major impact on various social movements in Argentina. 

“Rossi was the prime mover behind significant social reforms in Argentina,” Galbraith said. “He is a great friend to many of the causes we believe in.”

Rossi said that, for the first time in history, the Latin American countries have been brought together by an organization called UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. 

“The establishment of UNASUR, which was born out of the effort of the Brazilian president, was the first time we were able to have all 12 nations of Latin America become member states,” Rossi said. “This promoted the possibility of more cooperation.”

Rossi said that soon after the creation of UNASUR, the organization was able to keep conflicting countries from going to war.

“The first secretary general of UNASUR was ex-president Kirchner,” Rossi said. “The first challenge that this organization took on was to avoid a diplomatic conflict that existed between Colombia and Venezuela.”

Peter Cleaves, president of DRG International, an international business advisory firm, said that he understands why it was necessary to create organizations such as UNASUR.

“The Argentine military and other militaries in the Latin American region are engaging in international cooperation [and] new kinds of projects, which, in effect, deflect their previous interest in watching the civilian politicians,” Cleaves said. “So all of these clubs, projects and mutual defense pacts are to keep the military busy doing productive activities, certainly more productive than plotting against the civilian regime.”

Argentina has made headlines for its attempt at keeping a territorial hold on the Malvinas Islands in the Southern Atlantic. Rossi said he supports Argentina’s stance on their right to the islands.

“Argentina claims sovereignty over these islands and will continue to do so," Rossi said. "As a matter of fact, it is part of our national constitution, which declares that we have sovereignty over the Malvinas and the South Atlantic region,” Rossi said. “They belong to Argentina, and we will continue to claim these rights in international forum.”

Rossi said that the Argentinian government has pushed to work peacefully with other nations over the past 40 years so that Latin America can propel itself forward.