The old, combative Cristina is back.
Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner held a rally in the city of La Plata yesterday to relaunch her campaign ahead of the October legislative elections. And as expected, she focused not only on her victory in the primaries over Cambiemos’ candidate Esteban Bullrich but she also called for the unity of the Peronist parties. She then criticized the Macri administration, both for its economic policies and for — at least according to her — being responsible for the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado.
Cristina began opened the rally by directly addressing the results of the definitive recount. “It’s the first time in history in which the candidate that won the provisional recount didn’t win the definitive one,” she told the crowd while holding in her hand an official document with the numbers of the definitive tallying.
“This whole thing is the triumph of truth over lying, over manipulation. After 17 days, only [yesterday] did we Argentines and the world learn what happened on the August 13 primary elections. The Unidad Ciudadana party won,” she said. The former President unofficially learned about the results on Monday, but decided to push yesterday’s rally, initially scheduled for Tuesday, until yesterday to use that incontrovertible fact in her speech.
The former President continued accusing the government of pushing a “false narrative” on election day. Back on August 13, she argued that since the they knew they were going to obtain less votes than her, tallying centers started counting the votes from the Buenos Aires province districts in which the Cambiemos coalition is more popular in order to initially make it seem as if Bullrich had obtained many more votes than her. That day, she also assured that the government had also ordered the provisional recount to be halted when the trend made it clear she was going to take the lead.
“Everyone in the government celebrated and danced and thanked for having won the elections with 37 percent of the vote, while a TV banner claimed that Unidad Ciudadana had only obtained 30 percent of the vote. The world saw that and Argentines today feel like they wanted to sell us something that wasn’t true. We were patient to learn that in this federal country, the government lost in 14 jurisdictions [out of 24].”
Fernández then moved on to address the issue that has the entire country talking: the disappearance of 28-year-old artisan Santiago Maldonado, who went missing on August 1 after allegedly being taken by Border Patrol officers.
“I believe that one of the things Unidad Ciudadana has done successfully was making the economy be a part of the conversation. Then the it was the government’s behavior during the elections. Then there was a big march called on August 22 by the CGT [umbrella union] and found out that those who were good in the past were now bad just because they participated in the march. And then the third most important thing, the one I believe is the gravest one yet, the most painful… and that is the forceful disappearance of Santiago Maldonado,” she said.
She continued by suggesting that the government itself may have been behind the disappearance to send a message: “to show they are powerful, that anyone who protests will end up in prison. These are the words of the administration’s own officials,” she argued.
In contrast with the rallies she had held in the run up to the primary elections, the former President didn’t leave the mic to citizens who claimed had been affected by the administration’s economic policies. She went back to having the spotlight only on her and delivered a speech that can be considered more combative than the previous ones in this campaign, in which she presented herself as a messenger of society’s woes.
Considering the narrow advantage she got in the primaries, there’s a lot of speculation about the way in which she will approach the rest of the campaign for the midterms. Pundits assured that in her initial strategy, she avoided making many public appearances and speeches, aware that the negative image a considerable sector of society has of her could lose votes for the party.
Upon this apparently unfruitful attempt (despite her celebratory tone, winning by 0.21 percent of the vote against Cambiemos in a historically Peronist electoral district is not a good sign), she could have decided to go back to her presidential persona, much more confrontational and dominant. However, considering that the initial decision to tone down her rhetoric was made to avoid having a negative effect on the electorate, it’s unknown how this will play for her. Only October will tell.