Was it typical Argentine humor or a mockery of the Chinese language?
Whatever it was, the Chinese are not saying anything — yet — but many Argentines are put out by the latest gaffe from their leader, President Cristina Kirchner.
The controversy came after Kirchner, who is on a state visit to China to promote her country’s infrastructure projects, sent out a tweet in which she swapped certain letters in the Spanish words “petroleo” and “arroz” to make fun of a Chinese accent in Spanish, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
“Vinieron solo por el aloz y el petloleo?” [They came just for rice and oil?], she tweeted rhetorically, referring to hundreds of people at an event where she was speaking in Beijing.
There was no immediate Chinese reaction and the Chinese embassy in Buenos Aires could not be reached to comment.
In Argentina, humor highlighting differences in race and culture is common.
Still, more than 41,000 Argentines reacted to Kirchner’s tweet, most of them critical, according to www.t-bee.tv, which monitors social networks.
“I feel shame for my country and for some of those that inhabit it,” Twitter user @liturgia16 wrote.
Chin Chau, a mobile phone salesman in Buenos Aires, said he has lived in Argentina 55 years and feel a part of the country but “Cristina’s joke was not funny. It shows a lack of respect for Chinese people”.
Kirchner immediately followed her joke with another tweet.
“Sorry,” she said. “But you know what, the only way you can digest so much excess ridiculousness and absurdity is with humor. If not, things become very, very toxic.”
That tweet appeared to be a reference to the political climate in Argentina, where the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of a prosecutor have riveted the nation and fed speculation that he was assassinated.
The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead in his apartment on Jan. 18, a day before he was to set to testify in Congress that Kirchner had conspired with Iran to sabotage his probe into a 1994 terrorist attack that killed 85 people.
In controversial comments, Kirchner said Nisman’s death was not suicide and that he was murdered without saying by whom.
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