Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Friday played down reports of a deep rift in the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, declaring that “there is no fight but rather a debate of ideas.”
During a closely watched speech at the National University of Chaco Austral (UNCAUS) in Resistencia, the former head of state addressed “democratic dissatisfaction,” praised her “intelligent” to decision to persuade President Alberto Fernández to run for the Casa Rosada in 2019 and insisted that there is “no power dispute” at the top of Argentina’s government.
She did, however, air stark criticism of the government’s stewardship of the economy, underlining her own personal dissatisfaction with the state of play.
“What is happening in the Executive Power is not a fight; I did not hit anyone, nobody hit me,” declared the former president, who led Argentina between 2007 and 2015. “This is a debate of ideas.”
The veep did acknowledge, however, that there is a certain “democratic dissatisfaction” among the population, given that people “"do not have enough money and they cannot make ends meet.”
"We are not living up to the trust placed in us,” she declared.
The comments came after another week of tensions for President Alberto Fernández's administration, during which a number of Kirchnerite leaders broke ground to criticise the president.
Unhappy with the government’s economic course, they have called for greater spending and welfare payments to assist citizens affected by a poverty rate of nearly 40 percent and a runaway inflation rate, which surpassed 50 percent over the last 12 months and hit 6.7 percent in March alone.
Speaking as she received an honorary doctorate from her UNCAUS hosts, Fernández de Kirchner acknowledged recent media reports about a growing conflict by declaring that she still feels “part of a collective project” that dates back to the mid-2000s.
The vice-president – who addressed a crowd of 3,000 people, with an estimated 7,000 more outside the lecture hall – argued that Argentina’s “bimonetary economy” and lack of US dollars was the main cause for the country’s turmoil and fiercely defended the role of the government, citing the rise of China as the “most successful” example of state capitalism and the rapid global development of coronavirus vaccines as further evidence
Addressing the difficulties facing the population, she said no-one in the political frontline should be allowed to “play the victim.”
“The only victims are those who don't have enough to eat, don't have a job and have to take their kid to a soup kitchen to have a meat dish – those are the things that need to be discussed,” said Fernández de Kirchner, underlining her complaints.
During a trip to Tierra del Fuego Province, the president called Friday for members of the ruling coalition to "look to the future" and "work together."
He concluded: "We are very convinced and very united in what we are doing. And they are not words, it is political will, action and results. I value my word and when I commit it I hope to keep it."
Fernández de Kirchner's remarks came after another week of tensions within the ruling coalition, during which a number of Kirchnerite figures broke ground to voice criticisms of President Fernández's government. Among them was Andrés ‘Cuervo’ Larroque, a leader of the La Cámpora political organisation.
"We formed this political force, we called Alberto and we won the elections, on the basis of a voting intention that was mostly in favour of Cristina,” said the community development minister for Buenos Aires Province.
“Alberto is not going to take the government to the bedside table,” warned Larroque ominously.
Government officials, speaking off the record, reacted to the comments with the usual line: “We continue to govern, they talk, we work." Only Security Minister Aníbal Fernández broke ground to defend the president.
"The president is not going to be squeezed with stupid statements," said the minister, who went on to play down reports of a untraversable rift.
"I am convinced that in the short term it will be resolved," he told El Destape Radio, referring to the lack of communication between the presidential duo. "Sometimes things are not seen in the same way and debates have to be generated.”
At least one Cabinet minister, however, accepted that tensions were running high.
"Neither Peronists nor anti-Peronists are happy with Argentina today,” said Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro. “We have to overcome these disputes that have not served the country or anyone else, and seek to build a different country.”
According to reports, a number of ruling coalition deputies – including lawmakers Carlos Heller and Leandro Santoro – have called for the creation of “a political round table” to resolve internal differences.
Guzmán targeted (again)
Once again, the target of much of the Kirchnerite ire continues to be Economy Minister Martín Guzmán, with criticism also extended to the portfolio heads of Production and Labour, Matías Kulfas and Claudio Moroni.
Speaking earlier on Friday, Guzmán defended his steering of the economy, underlined that activity would continue to recover this year and called for an end to “short-term thinking.”
"Argentina has a clear opportunity: a strong recovery last year and a continuation of the recovery is projected for this year," the minister said at an event with entrepreneurs in Salta.
Echoing the language voiced by the International Monetary Fund, Guzmán argued that the country "needs stability that allows us to move away from short-term thinking,” a not-so subtle response to criticism from the Kirchnerite sector of the ruling coalition, which has called for greater public spending to assist citizens struggling with high inflation, which private economists believe could top 60 percent this year.
"The key to any programme that seeks to attack inflationary processes is to have an impact on expectations and for this to happen, there must be certainty about the course," declared the minister.
Guzmán, who has been publicly and regularly backed by President Fernández, received backing from the president of the Argentine Industrial Union (UIA), Daniel Funes de Rioja, who described the minister’s economic programme as “consistent.”
Funes de Rioja said in comments to the local radio station that the industrial sector agrees with Guzmán's diagnoses of Argentina’s problems and said the minister “has the right to make the right decisions.”