Before a wet and packed Plaza de Mayo filled to the brim with supporters, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Thursday renewed her criticisms of the opposition, the Supreme Court and Argentina’s US$44.5-billion debt programme with the International Monetary Fund, while calling for a renewal of the country’s democratic pact.
The vice-president did not, however, provide electoral definitions, as some had hoped, although she reiterated her claims of being “banned” from running for office by the courts over the course of her speech.
As she spoke, some of the leading Frente de Todos hopefuls for the presidential nomination stood to her side. Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro, Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof and Economy Minister Sergio Massa were all in prominent positions.
Fernández de Kirchner has already said she will not be a candidate in October, but everyone wants to know who she thinks should.
But instead of anointing and looking forward, the vice-president was – quite reasonably given the occasion – more interested in casting her eye back to see where Argentina had come from and how it got to where it is today.
Notably, she dedicated a portion of her speech to a key player in the last two decades of the country’s history: the International Monetary Fund. Recalling Argentina’s past clashes with the multilateral lender, she drew parallels to highlight the impact of the current debt deal, the terms of which Massa is seeking to renegotiate in light of the worst drought on record, an economic crisis and runaway inflation of more than 100 percent per annum.
“If we do not manage to set aside this programme which the IMF imposes on all its debtors, instead of permitting us to elaborate our own programme of growth and industrialisation, it will be impossible to pay them, no matter what they say,” declared the vice-president.
Addressing the rally, which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of Néstor Kirchner and the 213rd anniversary of the May Revolution, the former two-term president reminded the crowd that the original US$57-billion loan granted by the IMF to the Mauricio Macri administration carried the "political" objective of re-electing the PRO leader. Therefore, she argued, “the solution must also be political."
Warming to her theme, Fernández de Kirchner proposed "the investigation of the debt and those responsible," saying that "it’s time the institutions of the Argentine Republic stop looking after the interests of the corporations and the powerful to take care of all Argentines.”
"Néstor said that dead people pay no debts. Do they believe that it can only be paid with commodities? No, forget it. National unity is essential in the face of that,” she insisted, calling for the agreement with the IMF to be restructured.
Expectations had ramped up in recent days that the vice-president, who has ruled herself out of a run for office this electoral cycle, might announce her favoured candidacy. Those faded quickly once her message of almost an hour ended with no direct mention of the issue. Close at hand were the ministers Massa and De Pedro, both of whom have their eyes on the presidential candidacy.
The most prominent – and expected – absentee was President Alberto Fernández, who had not even been invited amid the tension between both leaders. He had given no indication that he would attend, though he called on social media for Peronist loyalists to turn out for the speech.
The Vice-President began her remarks marking the 20th anniversary of the Néstor Kirchner presidency by recalling the years immediately following the 2001 crisis, using that context when "everything exploded" along with convertibility early in this century to question the dollarisation proposed by outspoken libertarian deputy Javier Milei.
"It was us Ks [Kirchnerites] who paid the fixed-term deposits with Boden 12, the bond given to each person who went to their banks looking for the dollars and pesos which weren’t there. We Ks, Néstor and Cristina, paid those dollars in eight instalments, the first three under Néstor and the last in 2012. Take note of that, you economic geniuses, we paid for you,” she declared to cheers.
Her recall of the Néstor Kirchner government also included the infamous clash with the farming sector and the paying off of the IMF.
She also differentiated herself from the administration of an absent President Fernández while saying that it was "infinitely better" than a second Mauricio Macri term would have been.
“Everybody knows the differences I have, no need to explain them. I told him last December 20 in La Plata: ‘There will be growth but watch out for the prices because four smart alecs will walk off with them and that’s what happened,” pointed out the former president, adding: “because Argentina grew again despite all the mistakes and differences.”
She then singled out the problem as "the distribution of income," continuing: "Or why do you think that in my second term we could reach 51 percent [distribution] and why do you think they hate, persecute and ban me? Because I was never one of them and never will be, whatever they do. Even if they want to kill me or throw me in jail, I will never be one of them, I belong to the people and I’m not moving from there.”
Perhaps for the first time in the long history of CFK rallies, the event began early – just after 3.30pm when scheduled for 4pm – as a result of the heavy rainfall in the capital. It was also the first time the vice-president was accompanied on the stage by her grandchildren as well as Frente de Todos leaders, including Governors Kicillof (Buenos Aires), Alicia Kirchner (Santa Cruz) and a host of ministers and mayors.
“It is necessary finally to renew the democratic pact, giving back the country its judiciary which has evaporated with a gang unworthy of Argentine history,” fired off the vice-president, again questioning the nation’s highest tribunal.
She underlined: “Believe me, that Supreme Court which Néstor wanted impeached against the real disaster we have today. Please, it does not matter if there are judges of one orientation or the other but we Argentines deserve to have a Supreme Court worthy of the name without cause for embarrassment. I ask that of all the political parties, please. It’s also the image of the country.”
Thanking party activists and supporters for their constant backing, the vice-president declared her love for the crowd and the homeland.