The Argentine political dynamics today is liquid and unpredictable: Peronism is sunk in the polls and internal fights prevail in the opposition before the prospect of winning the presidential elections next year. Everything can change, however, if a sleeper cell is activated: the candidacy of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to settle for the third time in the Casa Rosada. And that cell is giving clear signs of stretching.
The powerful vice president has decided to oppose from the Senate of the Nation, which she presides over, given her frustration with Alberto Fernández, the candidate she handpicked in May 2019. Fernández is not governing as she would like, Argentines already have it very clear , because the two-time president (2007-2015) says so in the presence and absence of the head of state, who lately takes refuge in international politics: trips to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, to the G-7 in Bavaria , and virtual presence in the one convened by China with a diverse group of countries.
There will be more trips and there will be no dialogue with Cristina, according to ‘Clarín’ columnist Marcelo Bonelli: “I am not going to sit down with Cristina anymore,” Fernández told the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Sergio Massa.
The curious thing is that the vice president no longer has any interest in talking with the president. His strategy aims to contain damage in the face of what he sees as a severe defeat in 2023. That damage containment involves avoiding an economic catastrophe: Kirchner’s widow fears that what happened to the Radical Civic Union (UCR) from of the terrifying crisis of 2001 and 2002, triggered by the confiscation of bank deposits dictated by the government of Fernando De la Rúa and exacerbated by the mega-devaluation of the peso decided by the Peronist Eduardo Duhalde.
Radicalism, a social democratic party comparable to the PSOE, needed two decades to regain some consideration in society and political power. Cristina does not have that time, especially because the closure of 2022 could bring very bad news in the judicial field: the oral and televised trial in the case that investigates fabulous overpricing and other corruptions in road infrastructure works in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, that the Kirchners have dominated at will for three decades.
It is not the only judicial process against him in progress. The vice president needs to strengthen herself politically, and the best way is to be a candidate of the ruling party. All simultaneously with the possible return of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to power in Brazil. In both countries the same argument works: justice should not be an obstacle to the popular will.
Carlos Beraldi, the vice president’s lawyer, has recently revealed his frustration with Fernández: “You need to have a clear policy in the Ministry of Justice, specific objectives and think that there is already a year and a half of government left.”
Analyst Fernando Laborda has decoded the phrase in “La Nación”: the vice president believed that “with the alleged negotiating skills of the President of the Nation and with the political pressure of the Executive Power on the magistrates, the legal cases were going to be definitively buried in his against”.
It doesn’t matter anymore, Cristina is far from giving up. In a difficult political, judicial and personal situation -her two children are also part of the cause-, she has chosen to go on the attack and reinvent herself. President at 70? Why not. She has already met twice with the US ambassador, Marc Stanley, with the aim of sending her own messages to a White House to which she was never invited as president. She also holds public meetings in her Senate office and secret meetings in other settings. She speaks with more and more people and asks for diagnoses and solutions for the economic and social situation of a country with 80% annual inflation.
The poorest population of Argentina has been, for the most part, traditionally related to Peronism, while the youth strongly supported Kirchnerism since 2003. However, the polls show a cracking of that electoral base: poor and young people are seduced today, in a not insignificant percentage, due to the diffuse anarcho-liberalism that Javier Milei embodies. And others directly prefer not to vote.
In this context, there was a meeting with Fernández de Kirchner that has amazed both the government and the opposition: three hours of conversation with Carlos Melconián, orthodox economist, faithful defender of the need to end the fiscal deficit, critic of Kirchnerism and friend of former President Mauricio Macri. Melconián has always made it clear that he aspires to be economy minister and for months now he has been working, commissioned by the Mediterranean Foundation, an Argentine think tank, on a comprehensive economic plan that will pull the country out of its chronic crises.
“Let’s play it down. We have to give people the ‘chance’ to change,” said the economist after a meeting that should have been secret, but that someone has been interested in leaking. Macri, a friend of Melconián, has called the economist to find out more about the amazing meeting with his arch-rival.
A Macri who refuses to talk about his candidacy for 2023. Both he and the former president carry a strong negative image in the polls, but they are, at the same time, the most polarizing politicians in a country with a high degree of social tension and in public conversation. Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, mayor of Buenos Aires and the candidate with the most possibilities in the opposition, proposes another model, a consensus that involves 70 percent of the country. But if Cristina Kirchner takes the step to try to emulate Juan Perón, elected three times as president, and Mauricio Macri follows her, Argentines will be faced next year with a very clear dilemma: black or white.
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