Drawing plenty of attention in person and online, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner returned to the foreground of national politics on Thursday, as she presented her best-selling book Sinceramente (“Sincerely”) at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair.
Chanting and flag-waving supporters waited for hours in the pouring rain for the Unidad Ciudadana leader, as expectations grow that she will decide to run in October’s presidential election. Huge crowds flocked to big screens set up on Avenida Sarmiento, outside the La Rural convention centre in Palermo, and outside the Jorge Luis Borges salon, where the event took place.
The former president received a rock-star welcome as the event began. She was interrupted several times by chants of “my dear president” and “we’re coming back.” Flags and posters reading “Cristina 2019” were on sale while politicians from her coalition and union leaders applauded from their seats.
Fernández de Kirchner was par ticularly playful and lighter in tone than much of her traditional political discourse, as she mixed observation and comment with references to her writing process. She spoke on a range of topics during the 30-minute presentation including the US economy, the need for a “social contract” to protect the most vulnerable and her late husband Néstor Kirchner.
“No-one can disagree with these statements, but let me tell you something else will be needed. A social contract of all Argentines and for all Argentine. With verifiable, quantifiable, enforceable goals,” she said.
While she refrained from any strong, combative language against the government, her party loyalists were shown harassing a TV reporter from Grupo Clarín’s TN network, a frequent target during her time in office.
Ultimately, the former president stayed quiet about her candidacy, although she said these were “very difficult times” for Argentina.
“We can build something different,” she added pointedly.
But despite the debate over whether she will or won’t, attention was – at least in theory – on her best-selling book. With 300,000 copies sold in 20 days, Penguin Random House representatives announced at the event – an “editorial phenomenon” and record for the Argentine market, they said – the work is a mixture of family and political memories.
The senator for Buenos Aires Province also dedicates an important part to defending herself against accusations of corruption. And the book is also loaded with criticism of President Mauricio Macri’s government.
Fernández de Kirchner, who served two terms as president from 2007 to 2015, said she was motivated to write by her former cabinet chief Alberto Fernández, who was “very distressed” at what was being said about her and her late husband, to whom the 600-page work was dedicated.
“He told me: ‘It gives me a lot of anguish that those things are said about you, and you have to go out and tell your side’,” the ex-headof-state said Thursday night before an invite-only audience of 1,000 guests, including Nobel Peace Prize winner A dol fo Pér e z E squ i vel , Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo President Estela Barnes de Carlotto and a host of political and union leaders, actors and human rights activists.
Press, unless explicitly invited, were excluded.
Although she has not yet said whether she will run for the presidency, Fernández de Kirchner’s popularity has grown in recent weeks, with some polls indicating she could beat Macri in a run-off vote.
The mere prospect of her coming back to power has rattled local markets in recent weeks as political uncertainty upends attempts to mend a battered economy and stop the freefall of the peso.
However her participation in the elections is complicated by the fact that she is the subject of more than 10 corruption investigations related to her time in office. She will go on trial in the first of those cases on May 21, accused of diverting public funds.
She currently enjoys immunity from jail-time as a sitting senator.
True to her style, Fernández de Kirchner looks set to keep supporters, investors and political foes in suspense – at least until the deadline to register on June 22.