Source AP ©

Fernandez: Clinton to become next American president

Cristina Fernandez thanked her husband for helping her triumph at the polls and wished Hillary Clinton well in her U.S. election bid in her first televised interview since winning Argentina's presidency.

Speaking on Argentina's Todo Noticias network, Fernandez denied President Nestor Kirchner had distorted the extent of inflation and promised to put a priority on creating jobs, boosting exports and bettering health care and education.

Fernandez, a 54-year-old three-term senator, captured 45 percent of the vote Sunday, outpacing another woman runner-up, independent Elisa Carrio, by more than 22 percentage points. A dozen other candidates trailed further back, in an unprecedented race where women took the top two spots.

Official results published Tuesday showed Fernandez will take office Dec. 10 with a stronger grip on Congress than her husband has. The ruling coalition and its allies picked up 13 seats for 161 of 256 House deputies and added three Senate seats, with 44 of 72.

Fernandez acknowledged in the interview late Monday that she admired Hillary Clinton and noted frequent comparisons made between the two. Both are senators and lawyers who accompanied husbands from obscure state governorships as they rose to the presidency.

"I've been with her," Fernandez said, referring to a 2004 meeting with Clinton in Boston that produced a photo of the two with big smiles as they met - a staple of her campaign video and web site.

"Everything seems to indicate that she is the favorite of the Americans" in the Democratic primary fight, Fernandez said of Hillary Clinton. "And why not? Another woman wouldn't be bad."

Fernandez laughed when the interviewer, Argentine political journalist Joaquin Morales Sola, addressed her as the future "president," and she replied, "I'm still not used to that yet."

Much of her success was due to the accomplishments of Kirchner, who oversaw a recovery from deep financial crisis, reaching growth rates of more than 8 percent a year - help she acknowledged.

"Kirchner has been the flagship of this project," she said. "It's very important what President Kirchner has achieved in four-and-a-half years in office and this triumph is part of that."

As his close adviser, she said she was proud to help him as he turned the economy around, and she promised to continue his plans.

Fernandez dismissed widespread allegations that Kirchner's government has meddled with statistics to hide the extent of inflation, officially reported at 8.6 percent a year as of September. Independent studies put it at more than double that rate.

She promised unspecified measures to reduce the poverty that afflicts a quarter of Argentina's 37 million people, down from more than 50 percent at the height of the 2002 crisis.

She also vowed to make Argentine exports more competitive and to strengthen the region's dispute-ridden trade bloc, Mercosur, which recently invited Venezuela to join.

"We have to deepen our place in Latin America and amplify Mercosur," she said.

Asked what her husband will do once he has left office, a question of widespread speculation in Argentina, she laughed, and left the answer vague: "He's going to do what he has always done.

"He's a political animal. He's a man who deeply loves politics and really loves his country and has a great commitment to Argentina," she said.

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