The tone was lively at times and criticism of the government’s economic management was put aside, but the messages that should be given in private reached everyone in Argentina.
Reuniting on stage after three months without talking to one another, President Alberto Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner showed good manners but their differences were apparent: one was talking about the past and the other chose to talk about the future.
The first to arrive at Tecnópolis to celebrate 100 years of state energy firm YPF was Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Five minutes later, Alberto Fernández arrived and the two met again in a room behind the stage. They were never alone – Senator Oscar Parrilli, Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro, Secretary General of the Presidency Julio Vitobello and others also entered the VIP area.
"They greeted each other and spoke on good terms," said one of those present at the private meeting, which lasted half an hour.
The head of YPF, Pablo González, shared the stage with the protagonists of the presidential formula that won in 2019 and today is gripped by a strong crisis. In the lead up to the event, González had called the president to say: "Cristina told me that if you go, she goes." Onstage, the anger was covered by good manners and while González spoke, the president and the vice-president exchanged a few words and knowing smiles.
"Look Alberto"; "You must remember Alberto"; "Alberto, you know…" – these were some of the phrases the veep used to justify the president's complicity in her account of the history of YPF and the economic management of the Mauricio Macri government. CFK surprised the head of state when she decided to show an old video in which Macri’s former economy minister Nicolás Dujovne praised the fiscal accounts of the Kirchnerite administration.
"The set of problems left by the previous administration also left us a blessing. It was so outlandish, so incomprehensible, so incompatible with the rest of the world that nobody would lend money to it. So, Argentina today has very low levels of indebtedness both at the level of the government and at the level of companies and families," ran part of her speech.
Cristina focused her criticism on the opposition and highlighted the Kirchnerite administration. "In those 12-and-a-half years that we didn't get into debt, we made the salaries of Argentines grow 78 points and they fell 20 points in the four years that followed, and nobody is going to hear anything about this on television," she said, before admitting: "It's true that we were unable to solve the problem of inflation or the bimonetary economy. With mistakes, sometimes with manners that many did not like, but we found a way to get Argentina out of debt.”
She also spoke of the "first alliance" to point out that there was a second one with the Macrista government. "We recovered YPF and also paid the corralito to the first alliance. To the millennials I tell them that the Argentines were left with their savings in the banks, the people took to the streets and the government fell." The vice-president fired off a message also aimed at a young sector that increasingly agrees with the ideas of the libertarian deputy, Javier Milei.
The vice-president's harshest message was reserved for Fernández, reminding him of a dinner that the president shared with the CEO of the Techint Group, Paolo Rocca, and fellow company executive Luis Betnaza, in early May.
"You have to sit down, not as friends," she said about that meeting, without naming the protagonists. Minutes earlier, she had declared: "We have to ask them to return.... We have to ask them to manufacture steel here. Put the production line in Argentina if you have made a fortune, Alberto," she warned, citing the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline and the company’s role overseeing a project that will reshape the extraction of gas from Vaca Muerta. It was with this anecdote that the vice-president recalled one of her letters, in which she assured the president that he was in control of the pen. "I told you the other time, Alberto, that you had the pen. What I ask you to do is to use it," she declared.
This time, the vice-president did not critique the current economic management of the country by Martín Guzmán, whom she wants out of the government. She preferred to deliver a message marking the anniversary of the Ni Una Menos anti-gender violence movement.
"The Ni Una Menos demonstration is taking place in solidarity with women who suffer physical violence. There is always symbolic violence first, that of the word, and as a female president I can give a lecture on symbolic violence. Let us have faith and a lot of hope in our own strength and let us work with great solidarity for those who have the least," she said, closing her speech and giving the floor to the president.
"Cristina, thank you for your words," began President Alberto Fernández. "I brought a prepared speech, but it is well worth adding to the reflections I have heard.” he continued.
Unlike the speeches in which he goes on stage alone, this time, the president did not appear angry: he adopted good manners, though he decided to reply to each of the vice-president’s messages.
"Cristina is also right, I was with the president of Techint and I raised my concerns about transport," he said. "I am one of those who believe that making money is not indecent, what is indecent is that the profit remains in the hands of a few and poverty is distributed to millions."
The head of state took the opportunity to quote musician Luis Alberto Spinetta, pointing out that the vice-president cannot stop quoting the past,while in contrast, he chooses the future.
"It seems to me that the 100 years of YPF are a good opportunity to call for reflection. Spinetta used to say, 'Don't tell me that every past time is better. What is coming is better.’ We must remember, we must not repeat bad experiences. It is good that we remember, but tomorrow is better. And tomorrow is today, as Cristina said,” he declared.
With a smile, Fernández showed off his ‘hippie streak’ – something he knows the head of the Senate does not like.
The president used part of his speech to address his recent tour of Europe and his meetings with world leaders, something that he believes also annoys CFK. However, he decided to call again for unity, as he has been demanding in recent days: "What we must do most is join forces" and insisted on "working in unity."
There were two major absentees: Congress Speaker Sergio Massa and Máximo Kirchner. The former said he was visiting neighbours in Moreno. The head of the PJ is usually absent from events led by the vice-president.