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ARGENTINA | 10-08-2023 18:06

Final week of campaigning overshadowed by killing

Campaign closing rallies suspended in wake of death of 11-year-old girl Morena Rodríguez in Lanús; Sergio Massa, Axel Kicillof, Juan Grabois, Patricia Bullrich, Néstor Grindetti and Martín Lousteau all cancel activities in wake of crime.

The shock death of 11-year-old Morena Rodríguez loomed large over the final days of campaigning ahead of tomorrow’s PASO primaries as events and rallies were cancelled across the board in response to the fatal robbery.

The attack on the young girl, who was mugged and assaulted by two thieves on motorbikes in Lanús on the outskirts of the capital on Wednesday, shocked the nation and prompted a swift response from politicians across the spectrum.

Domínguez, 11, died at hospital after sustaining injuries in the attack. The thieves, now arrested, stole her belongings as the youngster was walking to school in Villa Diamante. The incident put a renewed focus on crime and security in the build-up to this weekend’s PASOs.

As news of her death emerged, most of the candidates from the two main coalitions, Unión por la Patria (UxP) and Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), suspended events scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Frontrunner for the governing alliance’s nomination, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, cancelled a rally scheduled to take place at the Teatro Argentino in La Plata on Thursday. His rival, social leader and activist Juan Grabois, followed suit, calling off an event at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in La Paternal.

"It is a moment of shock and our obligation is to be respectful, close and to be in solidarity with Morena's family," Massa said from Mar del Plata, where he announced the suspension of his campaign.

He described the incident as a "clear sign that we must put the emphasis on the fight against crime," adding that "the best way to attack such a problem is with prevention.”

Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, who is seeking re-election, also suspended his closing campaign rally in Merlo, an event Massa was also due to attend. Kicillof said it was "a very painful and tragic day" and that he was "shocked" by Morena's killing.

Grabois called for justice for the youngster but took on a political tone when he criticised figures in the municipal government, including Lanús security chief Diego Kravetz and Juntos por el Cambio’s on-leave mayor and gubernatorial hopeful Néstor Grindetti.

The social leader took issue, primarily, with Kravetz and Grindetti’s attempts to link Natalia Zaracho, a deputy and leader of the Movement of Excluded Workers (MTE) to one of the alleged assailants. 

The ruling coalition’s decision to cancel its rallies meant that, given the introduction of the electoral curfew on Friday, there would be no more campaign activities for its leading candidates before the PASO primaries.

Declaring solidarity with the victim and her family, both Grindetti and his political boss, opposition presidential hopeful Patricia Bullrich, announced soon after the death that their joint rally scheduled to take place on Thursday in Lanús was now off. 

"Due to the sad facts of public knowledge we send our condolences and solidarity to Morena's family and friends. We have decided to suspend the closing ceremony in the province of Buenos Aires," Juan Pablo Arenaza, one of the Bullrich campaign’s coordinators, said on X, the social network previously known as Twitter.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who is one of the opposition coalition’s leading candidates for the Presidency, suspended his closing rally that was due to take place on Thursday in La Plata. His gubernatorial hope for Buenos Aires Province, Diego Santilli and La Plata Mayor Julio Garro were also set to end their campaigns at the same event.

Bullrich also cancelled a rally due to take place in Córdoba on Wednesday night, taking to the stage briefly to thank supporters and apologise for any inconvenience.

 

Milei’s ‘rockstar’ rally

Given the course of events, Javier Milei’s decision to hold his rally earlier in the week was a lucky break.

Milei, presidential hopeful for La Libertad Avanza, was the first to close his campaign, taking advantage of a break in singer Luis Miguel’s run of shows at the Movistar Arena to stage an event at the venue for supporters on Monday. 

Internet users clashed over the true attendance at the 15,000-capacity stadium but there was a strong turnout as the libertarian lawmaker railed against the political establishment and riled up his fans, vindicating former president Carlos Menem’s decade in office with demands for dollarisation and the eradication of the Central Bank.

Hacemos por Nuestro País, headed by Juan Schiaretti and Florencio Randazzo, managed to have a press conference in Buenos Aires on Wednesday but their rally in Córdoba City was also pulled.

Left-wingers Myriam Bregman and Nicolás del Caño cancelled their rally on Thursday in response to the fatality, though their rival Gabriel Solano rescheduled his for Friday. He expressed solidarity with the victim's family in a statement, though he also criticised Massa, Bullrich and Kicillof for their "act of demagogy and concealment of their responsibilities." 

Principios y Valores presidential hopeful Guillermo Moreno said in a statement that he had called on his party to suspend campaigning in all districts.

 

– TIMES with agencies

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