Juntos por el Cambio’s internal battle for the opposition coalition’s presidential nomination has only just kicked off, but things are already growing tense.
As campaigning for the Casa Rosada began in earnest this week, shots were fired by both of the coalition’s Casa Rosada hopefuls at their rival.
Seeking to differentiate himself from his ‘hawk-ish’ rival, Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta accused former security minister Patricia Bullrich of seeking to impose the same “failed” model introduced by former president Mauricio Macri upon his arrival in office in 2015.
"Patricia Bullrich's model is like Macri's, and it failed," declared the City mayor emphatically, drawing parallels between her ambitions and other failed political projects.
"Patricia proposes, with the strong message, to express the wishful thinking, 'that we are going to' and it did not work. It's the history of Argentina – we have spent 100 years of conflict, fights, that 'Whoever doesn't think like me is the enemy, and must be killed' [approach]; that everything that the political adversary says is wrong; that the new government has to start from scratch," he criticised.
"That model failed, look at how we are today, following that model,” he continued.
Pushed further, Rodríguez Larreta said Bullrich’s proposals were the same approach that Macri tried.
“I propose something different. That we build a new solid and firm majority to promote something in Argentina that is governable, but so that the change is sustained over time,” said the City mayor. “The difference is clear: the only possible way forward is to build a new solid majority, which is not unanimity.”
Rodríguez Larreta then declared that he would never issue personal criticism and stressed, without a sense of irony, that unity is essential if the opposition is to win office. He also confirmed that Bullrich would be invited to form part of his government, should he emerge victorious in the opposition’s August 13 presidential primary.
Bullrich reacted angrily to the remarks, slamming her rival as an “opportunist” and declaring that he had crossed the line. Tensions have risen in recent weeks between the two candidates, not least over Rodríguez Larreta’s push to bring Córdoba’s Peronist governor Juan Schiaretti into the opposition’s fold.
"It seems to me to be morally low, opportunistic and unethical," said the former security minister.
"There are limits in a campaign. He is a total opportunist, he can't say something like that about someone who was his political boss for so long. It seems to me very despicable,” Bullrich said, referring to the criticism of Macri.
Her running-mate, Luis Petri, came to Bullrich’s defence. “It is disappointing to hear @horaciorlarreta criticise @PatoBullrich and @mauriciomacri more than those who are really responsible for the country's disaster, who are Kirchnerism and Massa. Not everything is valid, we are not the same, majorities are not built with those who despise republican values and encourage the decadent populism in Argentina, they are confronted with courage and bravery!”
Rodríguez Larreta's warnings were followed up by his running-mate and allies. Vice-presidential hopeful Gerardo Morales implicitly criticised Bullrich, saying that “leading is not shouting and acting tough.”
“To lead is to make decisions, to face situations, to have the mettle and courage to do so and to have the capacity to listen and dialogue,” said the Jujuy governor.
“This is no time for bravado,” he warned.
Coalición Civica leader Maximiliano Ferraro also came to the mayor’s defence, cautioning that this is “no time for proposals which could generate a shock in the elections.”
The tensions are exacerbating concerns within Juntos por el Cambio over the tone of the electoral campaign and its potential impact on voters after the primaries, when either Bullrich or Rodríguez Larreta’s voters will need to back their rival’s candidacy if the opposition is to emerge successful in October.