Argentina: Wave of criticism of Alberto Fernández from Kirchnerism | International

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Argentine President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Kirchner participate in the inauguration of the ordinary sessions in Congress, on March 1, 2020 in Buenos Aires.Juan Ignacio Roncoroni / EFE

Alberto Fernández has experienced the most difficult week of his mandate. In the midst of the health and economic crisis, the Argentine president has received harsh public criticism from the sectors that respond to his vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. He is accused, among other things, of fraternizing too much with businessmen. Many fear that the former president and now vice president want to show who really is in charge. The specter of division seems to threaten Peronism again.

"We Peronists were always tumultuous, we always argued in this way," ironizes Eduardo Valdés, deputy, Justicialist leader, former ambassador to the Holy See and one of the people who most contributed to the reconciliation of Kirchnerism with the rest of Peronism. "But we are never going to divide again," he says. For him, Alberto Fernández is doing a good job, seeking to broaden the base of the government (for example, with his approach to opponents such as the head of government of the city of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta) and forging consensus. As for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, “the Doctor”, she says, “she is as she is”.

Tensions began to escalate some time ago. Sergio Berni, a peculiar character (doctor, lawyer, Army lieutenant colonel, paratrooper, diver) and Minister of Security of the province of Buenos Aires, made a thunderous statement on June 8: "In our space the one who leads is Cristina Kirchner" . The same day, the social leader Juan Grabois said he felt "disenchanted with the Government" for its lack of leadership and added that Alberto Fernández "does not cut the cod."

On July 9, the feast of Argentine independence, Alberto Fernández invited the most conspicuous representatives of the business community and the leader of the General Labor Confederation to the presidential residence. To Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Association Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, emblem of the fight against the military dictatorship and icon of Kirchnerism, the call seemed outrageous: "You sat at your table," he wrote in a public letter, " to all those who exploit our workers and those who looted the country. And the most serious of all: those who kidnapped many of our sons and daughters who were fighting for a liberated homeland ”.

More important was a gesture from the vice president. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is barely visible and measures each of her public statements. On July 12 he retweeted, with the comment "the best analysis I have read in a long time", an article by economist Alfredo Zaiat in the Kirchner newspaper Page 12. Zaiat charged against the Argentine export business and confronted it with the Peronist political project. “When a large part of the patrimony of this group of powerful entrepreneurs is abroad, whether in properties, companies, stock market assets or liquid capital, and their main activity is in monopoly services or production of exportable raw materials, their own destiny remains split from the general, ”Zaiat wrote.

Alberto Fernández had to calm things down, write a loving letter of apology to Hebe de Bonafini and call for "internal dialogue." Defense Minister Agustín Rossi asked all Peronism to support the president. The authority of Alberto Fernández, however, was damaged. “Fernández is the head of the Administration, but the head of power and the one who has the support of the voters is Cristina,” says Ricardo Romano, a Justicialist activist since 1969, leader of the party for decades and former vice president of the International Center Parties.

Romano believes that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had the lucidity to put together the candidacy with Alberto Fernández to win the elections, "but now it degrades the government." According to him, bicephaly is pernicious and he quotes a phrase from Juan Domingo Perón: "One general bad is better than two good ones." His opinion about the vice president's motives coincides almost exactly with that of Eduardo Valdés: "It is in her nature, she is like that."

The diagnoses, however, are very different. Valdés highlights the good government results in the fight against the pandemic (Argentina has only suffered slightly more than 2,200 fatalities so far), the distribution of aid through the Alimentar y Remediar programs and the payment of subsidies to 10 million people to mitigate the effects of the health crisis. And remember that, according to the polls, the popularity of the president remains high, despite the protests of the most radical macrista opposition. “Every Saturday they accuse us of something different: of tyranny due to confinement, of wanting to be Venezuela due to the expropriation of the Vicentin company, of releasing prisoners, and even (after the murder of a former secretary of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) of murder ”He laments.

The deputy qualifies the vice president's anti-capitalist retweet: "Two days before the controversial meeting of the president with the businessmen, Cristina's own son, Máximo Kirchner (head of the Peronist majority in the Chamber of Deputies), and the president of the Chamber, Sergio Massa, had dinner with businessmen, so if there is criticism it is not directed only at the president. Perhaps there is too much inclination towards entrepreneurship. Perhaps due to a protocol error, Hugo Yaski (leader of the Central de Trabajadores de Argentina), the only trade unionist who supported us when we were in the opposition, was not invited to the presidential residence.

Ricardo Romano sees things differently: “The economy falls by 12%, the fiscal deficit reaches 8%, unemployment is around 20%, poverty affects half the population, a debt agreement cannot be reached and there is nothing other than public spending financed with the issuance of currency, "he says. Faced with this, "the government does not formulate a single structured proposal." There is a crisis committee for the pandemic, “but no committee for economic recovery”, and “everything is unpredictable because we have neither stability nor legal security”. The former Justicialist leader asks himself a question: "How are we going to rebuild the country if we continue to stigmatize businessmen?"

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