National lawmaker and former Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal has been touring the country and outlining her ambitions for 2023. “I feel that my next step is the presidency and I am preparing for it," she explains in an interview.
Have you read [Mauricio] Macri's book Para qué?
Yes, I read it and I told him that I liked it a lot. For many young people who have a political vocation or want to get involved, it’s very valuable that he transmits his experience as president of Boca [Juniors football club], as head of [the Buenos Aires City] government and as president. It is good that someone who has been in those places writes about what he learned.
At one point [during his recent book presentation], Macri looked at you, [Rodríguez] Larreta, Bullrich and [Miguel Ángel] Pichetto and said: "How nice that you are all together."
I loved that phrase. We have always been together. We governed together from 2015 to 2019, except in the case of Miguel who joined us in that last year. He is expressing the view of many Argentines who are asking us for unity, that we should not waste time. We all respect and value each other, beyond the tensions over the PASO [primaries] and the competition. We have to be able to compete in an opposition PASO without hostility.
Don't you think that there is already hostility between Rodríguez Larreta and Bullrich?
Nobody has to be, there is no margin with the Argentines to put ourselves in a place where we start to disqualify someone. We do have to discuss ideas, public policies and how we are going to transform Argentina. There is a clear awareness of unity and we all know that the day after the primaries, as in 2015, we all have to be together. In 2021 we competed in 17 provinces in the PASOs and the next day the losers were with the winners.
What is your objective for 2023?
After accompanying Mauricio in 2011 in [Buenos Aires] City, governing for three million residents, and having governed 17 million Argentines in [Buenos Aires] Province, I feel that my next step is the Presidency.
I am preparing for that every day: I will finish touring the country at the end of the year, not only the big [provincial] capitals where all politicians go, but also in small towns, in the deep inland areas. I have a team and an economic plan. Then will come the [rest of the] candidacies, but my vocation to be president is there.
Will the government manage to remove the PASO primaries?
If they had the votes they would already be removing them. There is a reason why they don't try: they don't have internal consensus. If they do, if they get the votes, they will confirm a trap, as they did in San Juan, Salta and Chubut. What angers me most is not that, because we are going to compete with the PASOs or without the PASOs, but the energy and time they are devoting to that, and to [the] Big Brother [TV show] and the recommendations of the INADI (anti-discrimination Institute). It is time that they are not devoting to [tackling] inflation and insecurity.
How did you feel when the 2023 Budget had cuts in education and [teachers union leader Roberto] Baradel remained silent?
Baradel's silence in the face of school closures, in the face of pay cuts in the province, which fell in 2021 and will end up falling in 2022 if they do not hold wage bargaining talks before the end of the year, and in the face of a lunch that is at 148 pesos, was confirmed in the face of this cut. He is not defending public education but a political space. Now it is clear to everyone.
What do you think of the absence of some deputies when tax increases were being discussed?
Unfortunately benefits for truck-drivers and new taxes were voted, such as the airport tax, which the opposition could have avoided if all the lawmakers, including the libertarian caucus, were in their seats [for the vote].
What do you think of the libertarian phenomenon?
Eventually everyone has to show who they are and what they think. Being in favour of organ-trafficking or the sale of children, thinking that that is part of liberal thinking, or now saying that all politicians are the caste and not coming to all the sessions like others. The ‘caste’ was there working to defend that taxes should not be increased. Unfortunately the facts are not proving that they back up what they say with what they do.
Why is Cristian Ritondo your [Buenos Aires Province] gubernatorial candidate?
Cristian is Juntos por el Cambio’s best candidate. The main concern, apart from inflation, is insecurity. Cristian is the only [provincial] security minister who has served out his term, knows the Buenos Aires provincial police, has never had a police mutiny, managed 90,000 people and sacked 13,000 cops for corruption, gender and institutional violence. He also reduced homicides by 36 percent and kidnappings by 50 percent.
What do you think about the [Buenos Aires] City mayoral contest?
For me, Horacio's successor in the City has to come from PRO. Both Mauricio and he have done a great job over the last 16 years and within PRO there is a team to continue that work.