With promises of national unity and assuring that "the worst" of Argentina's economic crisis "is passing," ruling coalition presidential candidate, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, staged his closing campaign rally on Tuesday on Peronist Loyalty Day.
In his last public address before Sunday’s election, Massa told supporters to “go and look for those Argentines who trust us, but above all, those who have doubts.”
“Tell them ... that the worst is passing, that what is coming is much better and that we have to do it together," he pleaded with the crowd, flanked by Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, who is seeking re-election in the general election.
Tuesday was a special day for Peronists. Loyalty Day commemorates October 17, 1945, when thousands of workers demanded and won the release of their movement's founder, General Juan Domingo Perón, who was imprisoned by the de facto government at the time.
"The blood that runs through me is Peronist, it's genetic; I support everything that has to do with this project," said emotional 45-year-old Daniel Duran, who is currently unemployed.
Like him, tens of thousands of people of all ages carried banners at the Arsenal stadium in Sarandí in Avellaneda, a southern suburb of the capital in Greater Buenos Aires.
Outside the venue, banners with the faces of former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (who today is vice-president and notably did not attend the event), as well as national icons like Che Guevara and Diego Maradona, fluttered among the food-carts steaming with chorizo and bondiola sandwiches.
"I came because I agree with all of Perón's laws, which must not disappear from this country. I am hopeful that comrade Massa will win the elections because he is the only solution Argentina has," commented Estela Díaz, a 64-year-old retiree.
Massa is betting his presidential chances on making a run-off showdown with Javier Milei, the libertarian outsider now turned frontrunner in the polls. The 52-year-old economist has promised to cut public spending with the forcefulness of a chainsaw and insults the professional Peronist political class as "chorras” ("thieves") and a “parasitic caste" that lives off the state.
Countering that narrative, the ruling coalition candidate has called for “the construction of a government of national unity" to solve Argentina’s problems.
During his speech to Peronist voters, Massa vindicated Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the disputed Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, defended the struggle for human rights and ratified the symbolic figure of 30,000 disappeared that humanitarian NGOs estimate were murdered by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship – all issues that Milei himself has questioned and commented on controversially during the election campaign.
"I don't like Milei because he has a feeling of hatred towards the country. He thinks Argentina is shit but he wants to govern this country. I don't like him, Argentina is the best country in the world. I hope a lot of people come this afternoon to defend all the laws that Perón and Evita [Eva Perón] gave us," declared Díaz.
However, Massa has been accused by his rivals of being ultimately responsible for the current economic debacle due to his position and influence in the national government. Argentina is going through a severe crisis, with inflation running at more than 138 percent year-on-year and more than 40 percent of the population living in poverty. Since 2018, the state’s coffers have been strained by its US$44-billion credit programme with the IMF.
"We want to discuss with the International Monetary Fund a programme that has to do with the growth and development of Argentina and not one that has to do with growth and the accumulation of reserves for them to collect their debt," Massa declared during his speech to supporters.
Peronist voter, 28-year-old health worker Micaela Aquino, said she was voting for Massa to defend her job. "What I've seen of [opposition candidate Patricia] Bullrich, I didn't like at all, and Milei is straight up crazy."
by Martín Raschinsky, AFP