Thursday, April 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 23-11-2023 00:48

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Victoria Villarruel hold ‘historic’ transition meeting

“Cordial and respectful” meeting held in the outgoing vice-president’s office at Senate, with no photographs taken; Villarruel says she will be "working all summer through."

Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Wednesday received her successor, La Libertad Avanza’s Victoria Villarruel, at her Senate office to begin the transition in the Upper House.

The deputy, who will swear-in as vice-president on December 10, entered the Senate punctually at 5pm from the Combate de los Pozos street, accompanied by three aides, and was received by the vice-president in a meeting lasting less than an hour. No photographs were taken or circulated of the encounter.

During the meeting the duo coordinated the organisation of the Legislative Assembly for the December 10 inauguration and went over the milestones of the outgoing administration, sources close to Fernández Kirchner told the Noticias Argentinas news agency.



"A historic meeting for all Argentines," Villarruel told the press just after the meeting, emerging very satisfied.

The La Libertad Avanza deputy described the encounter as "very cordial," and anticipated that she will "work very intensely all summer" with all the caucuses to approve the laws sent to Congress by the new government. Some political commentators took that as a sign that Javier Milei, once installed as president, will summon Congress for extraordinary sessions.

"It was a cordial meeting where we spoke of a transition which will be orderly and respectful. The person appointed [by Fernández de Kirchner] to arrange the transition explained to us how the Senate works and the steps to follow in the next few days," explained Villarruel.

The vice-president-elect commented: "It was all within the bounds of the democratic and the cordial, with an effort on both sides to try and carry out a transition which will benefit the Argentina people. It was an amiable chat – we did not know each other but we could converse and get to know each other, speaking of the questions lying ahead."

Referring to the decision not to capture the meeting on film, Villarruel said: "There were no photos but the citizenry can stay calm because we in La Libertad Avanza are going to carry out an ordered transition of the Legislative Branch together with the outgoing administration."


Role post-December

Asked about the possibility of taking on responsibilities other than the Senate and the Vice-Presidency – such as government portfolios – Villarruel evaded definitions.

"The important thing today is the conversation with the vice-president and I would not want to take away the centrality from a historic meeting for all Argentines,” she said.

The next steps will be swearing in the newly elected senators in a session on a date yet to be confirmed and then the Legislative Assembly on December 10 for the inauguration of the presidential ticket and the designation of the new authorities in the upper house.

According to Senate sources, the Vice-President highlighted during her meeting with Villarruel that she had inherited the DAS healthcare scheme for legislative staff with a monthly deficit of 390 million pesos, which she had turned around into a surplus equivalent to five months of contributions, expanding at the same time the services for its members.

Fernández de Kirchner also commented that the Senate currently has a payroll of 400 less employees than during the previous administration.

She also went over with her successor the building improvements during her time in charge "with the objective of adding value to the spaces of heritage and improving the areas where Senate staff have to work."

The meeting was coordinated by Senate Administrative secretary, Senator María Luz Alonso (Frente de Todos-La Pampa), who organised the audience with deputy-elect Guillermo Montenegro, one of Villarruel’s main confidants.


Great expectations

The protocol meeting had ignited strong expectations due to the striking ideological differences between the duo.

Fernández de Kirchner decided to bring forward her meeting with Villarruel after suspending a trip to Naples where she was due to give a master class in the local university on "democratic dissatisfaction," together with the possibility of a hearing with Pope Francis in the Vatican (although never confirmed).

Villarruel, 48, will be at the head of the Senate from December 10. It is still not known whether she will occupy a Casa Rosada office, but it is clear that she will make a point of presiding over sessions in the upper house.

A law graduate of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), Villarruel is the founder of the Centro de Estudios Legales sobre el Terrorismo y sus Víctimas (CELTYV), which investigates the crimes committed by the armed guerrilla organisations in the 1970s.
She became involved in party politics as from 2021, when she was elected deputy together with Milei in the midterms, but for decades she has formed part of the public debate over what she considers to be her cause – the trial of the crimes committed by the guerrillas in the 1970s and tributes to and the recognition of their victims.



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