It’s the same old story of Argentine politics: the ideologies sometimes can serve as masks for stances based on ambition for power and personal hatred. It was seen with Eduardo Duhalde and Carlos Menem – the former’s spite against the latter was so great that in order to hurt his rival, he promoted a figure with ideology contrary to his own, Néstor Kirchner, and ended up also constructing his future executioner.
For Mauricio Macri, the fact that an ex-UCEDÉ middle-class ventajita opportunist like Sergio Massa – a once electoral partner of his as a 2013 midterm ally against Cristina Fernánedez de Kirchner – could end up winning out in this year's election offends his ego and blinds his reasoning. In fact, this had already happened to Macri in 2003, when he contracted Jaime Durán Barba, infuriated because a middle-class lawyer, Aníbal Ibarra, had beaten him to become Buenos Aires City mayor. Accustomed to never having lost in his life, he told his advisor from Ecuador that he was ready to do whatever was necessary to get back on the winning track and take revenge on his own mirror, even if it meant hiding his own ideology and even embracing another - whatever was necessary to triumph. Durán Barba, during the campaign, and Marcos Peña, from within government as a cultural commissioner, extirpated any appearance of Macri’s conservative and neo-liberal components to adapt them to the Cambiemos ethos in forms compatible with the Unión Cívica Radical and the Coalición Cívica. Marcos Peña, when interviewed by Perfil, literally said: “Cambiemos is an evolution of PRO.”
Probably Cambiemos had previously been nothing more than a preliminary creation of Lilita Carrió to set limits on Kirchnerite hegemony in 2015, “whitewashing” Macri with holy water and dragging the Radicals into Realpolitik as the only way to be competitive. Carrió, the first anti-Kirchnerite, started a solitary battle as from 2003 denouncing the corruption of Néstor Kirchner and confronting Cristina Fernández de Kirchner electorally in 2007 when she finished second with 27 percent of the vote, but she won less than two percent when confronting her again in 2011. The Radicals could not even produce a candidate of their own in 2007 while in 2011 they finished third with 11 percent of the vote with Ricardo Alfonsín as their candidate. PRO, thanks to the wisdom of Durán Barba, saved themselves from defeat by not even competing.
PRO could never have won a presidential election in 2011 nor in 2015 nor would Cambiemos have been able to win the 2017 midterms if they had imposed the neoliberal austerity in the economy which Mauricio Macri now regrets not having carried out. In 2019, when he said that were he to be re-elected, he would do “the same faster,” he lost the PASO primaries by the abysmal difference of 16 points against the neocristinista Alberto Fernández, who won 48 percent of the vote against the 32 percent of Macri.
That’s why Macri did not compete as a candidate himself in 2023: his negative ratings are higher than Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s. He picked Patricia Bullrich to confront Horacio Rodríguez Larreta simply in order not to lose control of the party to his best disciple, to end up being the “exterminating angel” of both with the eruption of Javier Milei, whom he also encouraged.
In late 2021, after eight percent of Buenos Aires Province voted for José Luis Espert’s Avanza Libertad and 15 percent in this City for Milei’s La Libertad Avanza, Mauricio Macri perceived the libertarians as his Trojan horse and last year he definitely dedicated himself to advancing Javier Milei with the clear idea of dismantling with libertarian help that construction of Carrió, Durán Barba and Marcos Peña called Cambiemos, rebaptised Juntos por el Cambio, taking out the Radicals (now “Yrigoyenistas”) and replacing them with libertarians to form a new majority but with a critical mass more representative of his true ideology.
But what Macri never imagined was Sergio Massa winning the first round and far less could he have imagined a year ago, when his PRO-Libertarian plan was already launched, that the economy minister could even be the ruling coalition’s candidate. How could this ventajita opportunist, who had garnered only five percent of the vote in the 2017 midterms when Macri had self-indulgently defeated Fernández de Kirchner via the unknown Esteban Bullrich, walk off with 100 percent of Peronism six years later? Worse still when a Massa backed by Francisco De Narváez, Macri’s other electoral partner in the past, beat Néstor Kirchner in alliance with him in the 2009 midterms in Buenos Aires Province with their crime-fighting plans. De Narváez was Massa’s biggest campaign contributor and the reverse of Macri, who believed that a new party had to be created to change Argentina. De Narváez always insisted that it had to be done within Peronism, as Carlos Menem and Domingo Cavallo had done before them. Paradoxically, De Narváez defended dollarisation more than Milei.
Macri hates them. First of all, Rodríguez Larreta, whom he considers a subaltern who dared to challenge him for the control of the party which he himself had created. He hates De Narváez for having been much more successful in business than he himself and has never had to obey anybody. And he hates, above all, Massa for being a “lumpenproletarian” with his rustic virtues of viveza criolla gamesmanship beating him in the bridge card game of real life.
Macri knows that Massa is less Kirchnerite than his late father Franco. Furthermore, if Massa had been born half a century earlier in Italy, he might have been in the party founded by Macri’s grandfather, Giorgio: the Frente del Uomo Qualunque, qualunquismo. Massa’s parents, like Franco Macri are first-generation Italian immigrants with Don Alfonso Massa from the Mezzogiorno, from Sicily, the neighbour of the ancestral Calabria of the Macris. Massa’s father, like Franco Macri, had a construction company although only small or medium-sized in his case.
Macri knows that Massa takes his economic inspiration from Roberto Lavagna, whom Macri himself tempted to be PRO’s top senatorial candidate in 2009, thus privileged relations with the United States during the risk of Argentina becoming Venezuela, which served to hold the opposition together in 2015 but no longer exists today.
The talk of vanquishing Kirchnerism is as meaningless as when Milei speaks of Communists (like Rodríguez Larreta). Kirchnerism today is not Macri’s enemy, Massa is. He knows that well although Milei continues seeing windmills as giants to conquer and Macri uses those ravings to his own ends. As Sigmund Freud wisely wrote, there is nothing worse than the enmities created by the “narcissism of minor differences.”
The case of Patricia Bullrich has other honourable excuses, as demonstrated by her lack of personal wealth at the age of 67 after having dedicated her entire life to public activity. After the presidential defeat her political career might remain vacant without participation in a triumphant government.
The political Big Bang has only just begun.