Mauricio Macri had barely finished watching the announcement, in which President Alberto Fernández revealed that he would be stripping City Hall of over a percentage point of federal revenue-sharing. The former president picked up his phone and texted his former presidential chief-of-staff Fernando de Andreis. “We must support Horacio [Rodríguez Larreta],” he wrote.
The thought was reinforced when the City mayor announced, at his own press conference, that he would be going all the way to the Supreme Court. The event convinced Macri that he should pen a public letter, with an agenda going beyond the funds of the Federal Capital, his entourage confided to Perfil. It was also a good way of reclaiming his leadership role, with Rodríguez Larreta now the centre of attention and the political scenario, perhaps more than ever before. Hence last Sunday’s column in La Nación and Spain’s El Mundo, presenting his ideas to international leaders.
Following a Thursday noon meeting with three young Buenos Aires Province mayors and after long talks with his surviving kitchen cabinet, the column took shape.
Through a series of interviews, Perfil was able to ascertain that Macri thinks that the next three months will be the key to Argentina’s future.
Firstly, because (as his column says), there is a “serious institutional risk,” with concern over the judicial reform bill, the transfer of judges, the loss of the freedom of expression, the squatters and the release of convicts, among other issues.
Secondly, amid such a scenario, the need to support Rodríguez Larreta is more pressing than ever, even if there was only one paragraph in Sunday’s long column dedicated to the federal revenue-sharing issue.
The third focus is to maintain the unity of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition.
In a Zoom call earlier this month, Macri told members of the coalition that he had “warned” them that the public health crisis would be followed by an economic crisis. The former president is said to feel vindicated by the forecasts he made in April. He says he has never heard so many people expressing a desire to leave the country, ranging from powerful businessmen to ordinary members of the middle class who no longer considered the country “viable.”
In purely political terms, some say that he has started to resemble Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – they both say the same in public as in private, and both have a highly loyal electorate. Nevertheless, Macri is extremely critical of his predecessor, accusing her in private of imposing on the president the radical agenda of judicial reform and stripping the City of funds.
“It’s a lie that they have returned better,” he told his closest aides, expressing serious doubts as to next year’s midterm elections. Sources say he wanted to use the word “fraud” in his original column but that his advisors briefed against it.
Regarding the opposition, he said: “We represent that 41 percent which is also the more than 80 percent of those who work and produce. We should look after them because their self-esteem is destroyed. We must ask them for a last effort next year.”
Macri is sure that many of the key reforms planned by Kirchnerism will need special majorities in Congress. He views the midterms as a crossroads for the country. In that context he wants to see an orderly opposition front, in terms of both parliamentary and mayoral candidacies.
“Unity is not threatened for now,” he tells those closest to him.
Allies and enemies
Of his former aides, he singles out two in particular – former Cabinet chief Marcos Peña and former Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal – as those who continue to move him. He is more distant with Rodríguez Larreta.
Macri considers Peña one of the most brilliant of men, confessing admiringly that “with Marcos we always ended up on top and moving ahead,” and regretting that there is no such coordinating figure today. Of Vidal he says: “María Eugenia has an infinite capacity.”
Nevertheless, the book he is preparing reportedly contains criticisms of the 2019 election campaign, especially regarding the defeat in southern Greater Buenos Aires – ideas sustained by Peña and also the “political wing,” including Macri’s running-mate Miguel Ángel Pichetto.
His harshest criticism is reserved for former lower house Speaker Emilio Monzó, who last week in an interview all but suggested that both Macri and Fernández de Kirchner should go into retirement. Macri feels that the 2017 pension reform changed Monzó’s attitude, believing him to form part of a sector of his government which deep down did not want “definitive change.”
Yet he also feels that the time for self-criticism has passed, given the pandemic scenario and the government’s moves, since it could only weaken Juntos por el Cambio.
He is already planning to speak out again, with the former president sure to grant interviews before the end of the year.
“It’s not about candidacies, he’s worried about what’s going to happen in Argentina in the next few months,” assure those closest to Macri.
Breaking his silence
Mauricio Macri “broke his silence” last Sunday to issue a stark criticism of President Alberto Fernández’s government and its approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former president said in his column tht Fernández was leading a “systematic and permanent attack” on Argentina’s Constitution.
In the missive, he accused the government of seeking to “subjugate the middle class” in order to “get clients who depend on the favour of the State to survive.”
Macri has generally kept a low profile since leaving the Casa Rosada, limiting his interventions into political debate. His column, however, was a sharp attack at his successor’s administration.
"The authorities at the head of the National Executive Branch have been deploying a series of measures that consist of a systematic and permanent attack on our Constitution. In order to govern without limits, they violate the fundamental laws of the nation, which are charged with guaranteeing the protection of our basic rights and individual freedoms in the face of any attempt at abuse of power by the authorities," the former president wrote in La Nación.
"It is not possible to produce or work to bring bread to the table of Argentine families, because the idea is to subjugate the middle class to get clients who depend on the favour of the State to survive," he added.
The former president, who recently returned from just over a month overseas in Europe on a trip that combined vacation time and work for his role with the FIFA Foundation, closed on an optimistic note, saying he felt Argentine society had “matured” and would continue to defend their rights under the Constitution.