President Alberto Fernández has called on his party and coalition members to unite as he prepares to re-open Congress and win crucial backing for his government’s attempt to renegotiate its US$44.5-billion debt with the International Monetary Fund.
Speaking to a Peronist youth group in La Plata on Wednesday, the president declared that Frente de Todos is "divided, we are very weak," as he sought to underline the importance of unity in challenging times.
"The first thing we have to understand is that divided we are very weak, united we are very strong," said Fernández, in a clear nod to ongoing talks with the multilateral lender to restructure upcoming repayments from the 2018 Stand-By Agreement signed with his predecessor in office, former president Mauricio Macri.
"I will be very happy when we are all united. When no-one is missing, when we are all inside,” said the president.
Fernández is preparing for a crucial speech before Congress next week that will set the legislative agenda for the coming year, an event that will once again bring him face to face with Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in the midst of internal coalition tensions over the IMF deal.
It will be the first time the president and vice-president will have shared a stage publicly since Máximo Kirchner, the veep’s son, resigned his post as head of the ruling coalition’s caucus in the lower house, citing his opposition to the IMF deal.
Fernández de Kirchner, who served as head of state from 2008 to 2015 and is the leader of the ruling coalition’s more radical wing, has yet to make any public comment on the deal.
IMF deal in Congress
Casa Rosada sources say that the president was eager to present his draft agreement with the IMF to Congress before March 1, with the hope that his speech marking the opening of the 140th Ordinary Sessions of Argentina’s Legislature could “focus on an agenda for the future,” rather than look back at the past.
Those close to Fernández said he saw the March 1 speech as a potential "turning point: for his administration, moving on from the coronavirus pandemic and IMF agreement.
Yet Government sources said this week that while talks with the lender have “accelerated,” they do not expect a bill to be submitted before next Wednesday.
According to another Casa Rosada source, cited by the Noticias Argentinas news agency on Thursday, talks with the multilateral lender are ongoing with both sides negotiating over “how to reach the reduction of the fiscal deficit.”
The source said that they expected the IMF bill to be sent to Congress “in the first few days” of next week.
Last week, Fernández huddled with presidential adviser Alejandro Grimson and the Secretary General of the Presidency Julio Vitobello to compose a draft of his speech.
"Since December, the ministries send management reports to the General Secretariat of the Presidency, which works on the reports together with Grimson, who is the one who proposes the speech to the president," said a source who asked not to be identified.
"Alberto is already working on the draft of his speech, but he will be making corrections until the last minute," the source added.