Argentina's Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Thursday urged her country to ditch its debt repayment agreement with the IMF, as she led a rally in Buenos Aires ahead of presidential elections later this year.
The veteran politician, who was convicted last year of fraud, headlined the gathering celebrating 20 years since the inauguration of her late husband Néstor Kirchner as president and promoting the Frente de Todos coalition, to which she and President Alberto Fernández belong.
Fernández said earlier this year he will not stand for re-election and Fernández de Kirchner, who was president from 2007-2015, has also ruled out a candidacy in October.
Fernández de Kirchner is a long-time critic of the US$44-billion IMF loan initially agreed by her liberal successor Mauricio Macri (as a US£57-billion credit-line) and renegotiated by Fernández to help the cash-strapped country from defaulting.
"If we don't manage to get this programme that the Fund imposes on its debtors thrown aside, allowing us to create our own growth and industrialisation and technological development, it will be impossible to pay the debt," said Fernández de Kirchner.
The 70-year-old evoked a phrase from her late husband to reinforce the point: "Dead people don't pay debts."
Crisis-ridden Argentina is grappling with year-on-year inflation of 108 percent, a severe shortage of foreign exchange and a poverty level of around 40 percent.
In front of the government palace on the Plaza de Mayo square, thousands of supporters defied the rain to show their support, even chanting "Cristina presidenta."
While Fernández de Kirchner has a large and fiercely loyal base, far more people in the country either despise her or simply don't want to see her in the presidency again. Analysts suggest her refusal to stand in the elections is because she knows she would be soundly beaten.
She regularly claims her corruption conviction was political persecution and accuses the judiciary of pro-opposition bias. Her political movement has yet to decide its candidate or candidates for the primaries in August.
As a dominant figure in the coalition and left wing, Fernández de Kirchner is likely to play a major role in deciding who gets to stand for the presidency.
"We are waiting for her to say which candidate to vote for," 71-year-old retiree Paula Rodríguez said in an interview.
"She will decide the candidate, she is a strategist," added Germán Sora, a 50-year-old domestic worker.
Next to the vice-preisdent onstage were Interior Minister Eduardo 'Wado' De Pedro and Economy Minister Sergio Massa, both possible presidential candidates.