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Argentina's President, During Visit To China, Mocks Chinese Speech In Tweet

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has committed an apparent diplomatic gaffe in a visit to China, where she used her Twitter feed to mock how the Chinese speak.

Kirchner appeared to suggest that the Chinese have trouble distinguishing between their R's and L's — using the words "rice," "petroleum" and "Campora," the name of the youth wing of her political party, as examples.

It translates to: "More than 1,000 participants at the event ... Are they all from the Campola and in it only for the lice and petloleum?"

Bloomberg provides the background to Kirchner's tweet today: "Her tweet about what attracted her audience was a response to criticism that she packs events with her supporters."

Kirchner is known for her folksy style on Twitter, but this particular message was greeted with derision.

This user said: "This is our PRESIDENT...LET HER STAY IN CHINA."

This Twitter user, using the same R and L wordplay chosen by Kirchner, said: "You think you're funny? You corrupt assassin! I remind you that our country is a disaster and you have a corpse on your doorstep that is called Nisman."

That's an apparent reference to Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who was investigating what he said was the cover-up of a deadly bombing at a Jewish center 20 years ago. Nisman was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head the day before he was scheduled to brief the Argentine Congress on his investigation against the president. And as we reported Tuesday, he had drafted an arrest warrant for Kirchner before his death.

Kirchner, who is on a four-day visit to China, has turned to the world's No. 2 economy to shore up Argentina's foreign reserves and slumping currency. Analysts interviewed by Bloomberg said her tweet was unlikely to affect relations with China.

(Thanks to NPR's Luis Clemens for translations from Spanish.)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.