President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo/presidencia.gob.ar)
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo/presidencia.gob.ar)

The countdown has begun for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to leave office. And hours before President-elect Mauricio Macri announced his cabinet yesterday afternoon, Cristina delivered a impassioned speech in the Buenos Aires province in which she criticized the opposition, defended her policies and promised to continue “protecting everyone’s rights” once the new administration takes over.

“Stay calm, I’m not leaving. I’ll always be with you,” she said as soon as she took over the microphones in a soliloquy that had all the elements of a Cadena Nacional, even though it wasn’t. This was the first time she spoke in public since Daniel Scioli lost the runoff on November 22 and it felt like a goodbye speech. It was her swan song. Or at least the first of several swan songs that will surely come in the next few days until Macri’s inauguration takes place on December 10.

As many times in the past, the President recapped her most popular achievements since her husband Néstor took over a broken country in 2003: The Universal Child Allowance, low unemployment, the ARSAT satellites, the repatriation of Argentine scientists, marriage equality, the gender identity law, the recovery of Aerolíneas Argentinas and YPF, the trials of dictatorship-era torturers and their endless pursuit to protect and defend human rights.

Now, Cristina wouldn’t be Cristina if, after spending a few days licking her wounds in the dark, she didn’t return to the public eye ready to throw a punch or two. And she’s been around long enough for us to know that the calm (her silence) always precedes the storm (her anger.) A comeback speech means that she’s going for the jugular. And yesterday was no different.

Without mentioning Macri (not even once), the President tried to bring calm to the population as the President-elect’s ability to lead the nation is continuously called into question by many and fear of social unrest continues to rise. After all, the decades-long curse that says that non-Peronist presidents are never able to finish their presidential terms has proven to be terrifyingly accurate, as former Presidents Raúl Alfonsín and Fernando De la Rúa could attest.

In an effort to lower Argentina’s collective anxiety, Cristina said her party – which retained a majority in the Senate and is the first minority in the Lower House – would not conspire to block the way of the coming administration because “this diverse, plural and political party, a party whose main component is Peronism, has been persecuted and banned as no other party ever has been in Argentina.”

She said it’s precisely in the name of those “pains and tragedies” that her party would never think of doing anything that damages “governability and the coexistence of the Argentine people.”

However, while that may have seemed refreshing and strangely conciliatory, her message of hope came with a stern warning that clearly targeted the next administration: the very first minute Mauricio Macri tries to take away anyone’s rights, “the people” will be given carte blanche to take to streets and stop him.

“We’ve empowered the people with their rights, people know what their rights are,” she said, alerting that it will be up to the population to defend those same rights whenever “someone” (i.e. the Macri administration) tries to take them away. “And we will be right by your side, defending our conquers and acknowledging this harvest of a popular, national and democratic conscience.”

While enumerating her administration’s many accomplishments, Cristina also indirectly criticized Macri’s technocratic manner (stressing efficiency over style) and his tendency to nominate people from the business sector to public office.

“Make no mistake. A country is not a corporation. A country is a nation made of men and women. The balance sheet of a company ends in one way: profit or loss; but the balance sheet of a country ends by taking into consideration how many Argentines are left inside or outside the system,” she said to a cheering crowd.

It’s hard to know what Cristina Kirchner will be doing after December 10. She will probably lay low for a brief period of time and let Mauricio Macri have his victory lap. But while we may speculate on how long it will take her to come back as a private citizen in shining armor, there is no doubt that she is coming back.

And just as many times in the past, she will be going for the jugular.