Luis Barrionuevo formally took control of the Partido Justicialista today (Télam / Laura Cano)

Armed with a judicial order that has been fiercely attacked by his rivals, Luis Barrionuevo formally took over the Partido Justicialista (PJ) today, proclaiming his intention to “heal” the party and to prepare a competitive presidential bid in the 2019 elections.

Barrionuevo, head of the hospitality workers’ union and perhaps best known for having been involved in the burning of ballot boxes in the province of Catamarca in 2003, was named trustee of the PJ last week by Federal Judge María Romilda Servini, replacing José Luis Gioja, who has been close to Krichernite figures while trying to maintain good relations with the rest of the Peronist spectrum.

Servini, who doubles as an electoral judge, agreed with petitioners calling for the party to be placed into trusteeship on the grounds that the party had not won the 2015 and 2017 elections and that “well-known party leaders supported candidacies or political fronts that the PJ was not a part of or they directly participated as candidates of those groups that competed in the most recent elections against the party founded by General Perón.”

Servini was making a thinly-veiled reference to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Unidad Ciudadana ticket, which were separate from the PJ and was supported by a faction of PJ leaders.

PJ Trusteeship Barrionuevo by The Bubble on Scribd

Gioja and his supporters have appealed the ruling, taking the matter before the national electoral appeals court. Until it rules, Barrionuevo is in charge.

The condemnation has come from polar opposites from within the PJ. Máximo Kirchner blamed the Macri administration, saying on radio La Red that “I think that the intervention of any political party for the reasons given by the judge don’t make any sense. As Macri can’t [win] by himself, you have Gualeguaychú and the intervention of the party so that he wins 2019 with all of this fighting.”

Senator Miguel Pichetto (Río Negro), a Peronist who has broken with the Kirchners and one of the key organizers of the Gualeguaychú meeting to bring together rival Peronist actions, signed off on a statement that says that despite the current differences within the party “it isn’t the courts that must decide on internal decisions that have to do with the reorganization and renewal that we think is necessary so that the Justicialist Party become a real option and possible government for our country.”

Barrionuevo did not pay attention to that criticism and at today’s ceremony he said that “today is the beginning of the opening of the doors for Peronism and to get the movement going so that it is an option next year. The doors are open in general. We’re going to call upon those who left because they didn’t have any space here; this is the house of all Peronists.”

Carlos Campolong (first from left), Luis Barrionuevo (center) and Julio Bárbaro have high-rankings roles in the current iteration of the PJ (Télam / Laura Cano)
Carlos Campolongo (first from left), Luis Barrionuevo (center) and Julio Bárbaro have high-ranking roles in the current iteration of the PJ (Télam / Laura Cano)

 

The union leader, accompanied by old-school Peronists like Julio Bárbaro and Carlos Campolongo – whom he has named as part of his team – described himself as a “soldier of Justice. I’m in debt to the courts, who named me.” Responding to earlier accusations, Barrionuevo squarely attacked President Mauricio Macri, saying “Macri used to do well in politics because there wasn’t an opposition, now there is one. He’s doing very badly with the economy.

“The government doesn’t know what poverty is, what a loom is, what a workshop is, what a small business smells like. It knows about country clubs, Punta del Este, Miami,” he went on, promising that the PJ under his leadership will produce a winning candidate in the 2019 presidential elections.

Barrionuevo, who is married to Renewal Front Lawmaker Graciela Camaño – one of Sergio Massa’s most loyal lieutenants – seemingly shut the door on a return for the Kirchner name to the PJ. “Anybody with a case against them has to go to the courts. They don’t have anything to do with us.”