Argentina suffers the consequences of a divorce. A non-consensual divorce, one of those that go to court and the passion of yesteryear is now fuel for the most bitter disputes. The South American country suffers the political miseries of a leadership that settles its fights loudly. President Alberto Fernández and his vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, no longer speak to each other. The background sea is the rivalry for power, but also the differences in the direction that both intend for Argentina. And a sin of birth: Alberto Fernández was anointed by Cristina Kirchner as a candidate for the presidency and she owes her chair in the Casa Rosada. The experiment worked to avoid a second term for Mauricio Macri in October 2019; but the political anomaly that supposes a vice president with more power than a president has been a failure once in the Government.
Last Thursday, Argentina commemorated the 46th anniversary of the military coup against Isabel Perón. President Fernández held a small formal act, while Cristina Kirchner and her political group, La Cámpora, mobilized 70,000 towards the Plaza de Mayo, the quintessence of political power in Argentina. At the head of the mobilization was Máximo Kirchner, son of the vice president. La Cámpora showed street muscle and sent a clear message to the Casa Rosada: we are the people, the true electoral base of the Government, the creditors of presidential power. Fernández, meanwhile, calls for unity, convinced that the only chance of winning in the 2023 general elections is in a Peronism aligned behind a single candidate.
The blood between Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner came at the end of last year, when the ruling Frente de Todos suffered a severe setback in the mandatory primary elections. The vice president blamed her political dolphin for the defeat. The ministers who respond to her presented her resignation and forced Fernández to change the Cabinet that was not in her plans. Two months later, the elections confirmed the defeat of the Government candidates for Congress. Cristina Kirchner remained silent, but her love with Fernández, her former chief of staff, had already ended. The agreement that Argentina closed this week with the IMF for a debt of 45,000 million dollars was the last straw. Kirchnerism voted against the text in Congress, arguing that an adjustment to the economy, as Fernández agreed, would sentence any possibility of victory in the 2023 general elections to death.
“There are two groups that believe they have the right to make decisions, two leaders who claim to have the power to decide in the last instance,” says Sergio Morresi, a political scientist at the Universidad del Litoral. “And although the Argentine Constitution says that the executive power falls exclusively on the president, the truth is that this vice president has her own power beyond her institutional position. And it is from that power of her own that she demands that the president be considered to be there to fulfill a popular mandate of which she (and those who support her) feel they are the best interpreters, ”she says. Andrés Larroque, a strong man of Kirchnerism, said it clearly during the March 24 march. Fernández, he said, “was campaign manager for a space that won four points in the election in the province of Buenos Aires. The front called it on the initiative of Cristina”.
In the president’s entourage they do not agree with this reading of “borrowed power.” If Cristina Kirchner anointed him as a candidate, it was her because she knew that she could not win on her own. Alberto Fernández is, under this reading, a necessary condition for the triumph of the Frente de Todos against Macri in 2019. Therefore, they argue, he has the right to exercise power as he pleases. He deals, deep down, with different readings of reality. The economic crisis is pressing. Inflation is soaring (it is already over 50% per year), and the president considers that the agreement with the IMF is the first step towards leaving. Kirchnerism, on the other hand, maintains that nothing good can be expected from the IMF, and that it is better to get as far away from Fernández as possible while the Casa Rosada insists on advancing hopelessly towards the abyss. If the government they are part of fails, it is better to be far from the shock wave.
Is Argentina, then, headed towards a definitive rupture of the government coalition? “I don’t think so,” says Eduardo Fidanza, director of the consulting firm Poliarquía. “It is not convenient for any of the parties, because it would fragment the Peronist vote and ensure, from now on, an electoral defeat in 2023 ″, he says. Pablo Touzón, political scientist and director of the Scenarios Consultant, does see the possibility of a terminal crisis. “There is a decision made by Christianity: it considers that from the PASO [primarias] and the defeat of the legislative elections, the figure of Alberto Fernández has no leadership”, he explains. Sergio Morresi agrees that the crisis is “very serious”, but considers that “beyond the will of one part of the leadership to finish breaking spears, there are other sectors, even at the grassroots, that are pushing to maintain the unity of the Front of All”.
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Among those sectors is Alberto Fernández himself. During the last week, the president’s strategy has been to spread the idea that a fracture opens the doors to a return of the right to power, represented by Mauricio Macri. Macri is, for Peronism, the consummation of all evil. Fernández does not speak to his vice president, but makes calls from the media. “Whoever believes that this will have any effect does not have the remotest idea of how the vice president thinks,” they say from Cristina Kirchner’s environment. The massive demonstration on March 24 was evidence of that: the real power is in the street and can be exhibited. And the rejection of the IMF was the flag.
In Argentina, however, no one is very clear about where the exit from the quagmire is. “Christinism has a statement, but it does not have a real project for the country,” Pablo Touzón clarifies. “That is why he prefers to leave, because he lacks an alternative solution to this proposed by the IMF. What you want to preserve is a kind of core of values and meanings”, he says.
That core is the last hope of Cristina Kirchner and her movement, which sees as irremediable a failure of the government that she herself conceived. Alberto Fernández, meanwhile, receives pressure from his entourage to create “Albertismo”, a movement that breaks ties with Kirchnerism supported by the power of the Peronist governors and the unions that support it.
“I don’t give Alberto Fernández many chances, although he and his closest group believe he can run for re-election,” says Eduardo Fidanza. “In the current economic and social situation, his chances are very slim,” he says. Sergio Morresi agrees. “First of all, President Fernández does not seem determined to launch a movement of his own and get rid of his partners, even if some of them want to get rid of him and move to undermine his ability to act. Secondly, it seems to me that he is going through a very delicate social and economic moment, and the conditions to launch his own political movement are not exactly optimal”, he says. The government of Alberto Fernández has two years left in his term, and he will have to navigate the desert.
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