Photo via Telam

Five out of the six main candidates for national deputy in Buenos Aires City gathered yesterday at the studios of TV channel TN for the only debate before October’s legislative elections.

During almost two hours, Elisa “Lilita” Carrió (Vamos Juntos), Daniel Filmus (Unidad Ciudadana), Martín Lousteau (Evolución), Matías Tombolini (1País) and Marcelo Ramal (Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores) presented their campaign proposals, analyzed the country’s political, economic and social landscape and, above all, exchanged accusations.

The only candidate who didn’t attend was Autodeterminación y Libertad’s Luis Zamora, who denounced was excluded because one of the moderators was going to be journalist Marcelo Bonelli, with whom he has an old dispute. Zamora accuses him of having spread lies about members of his party ten years ago, and never retracting the story or publishing an apology.

The debate won’t be crucial for the candidates’ electoral hopes. Carrió got almost 50 percent of the vote in the primaries, almost 30 more than the runner-up, Filmus. Lousteau got 13 percent, while Tombolini and Ramal got 3.91 and 3.79 percent, respectively. And all indicators point at Carrió improving her performance, thanks to the possible migration of support from people who chose Lousteau in August.

However, the debate had moments that are worth remarking, as it provided the opportunity to watch the candidates respond to their rivals’ accusations to their faces, instead of doing so in their own campaign rallies or before the press.

Let’s take a look at the most important moments.

The first clash took place when Filmus asked Carrió about why she’s allied with President Mauricio Macri, if she had accused him of being one of the “business leaders linked to the robbery of the country” in the past.

“I don’t regret it [sealing the alliance]. I felt he had another vocation (…) I made this sacrifice and cried a lot; I believe in god and believe in redemption, and I believe he will be a great President; the question for you, Filmus, is how you can be together with all the criminals who looted the country,” Carrió answered.

Photo: Raúl Ferrari. Telam
Photo: Raúl Ferrari. Telam

Tombolini and Lousteau then took on each other, when the former questioned the latter’s “political coherence,” considering Lousteau was the Macri administration’s ambassador to the US until the end of last year. “I continue defending the same things I did at UNEN and ECO [the name of the parties he previously belonged to]. We have to finish discussing like fanatics,” answered Lousteau.

When the former ambassador had his turn to ask something to Carrió, he inquired how she would solve the problem that the upcoming increase in utility bills will cause to the country’s families. The co-founder of Cambiemos answered: “they will happen gradually and with a re-composition that with time won’t exist: for example, liberating oil prices should lead to its drop.”

Carrió fired back by asking him what political space he belongs to, considering that in every election he partook in, he represented a party with a different name. Lousteau answered: Evolución, ECO and UNEN. The places you belonged to,” he teased. “I appreciate you, but I don’t know where you are, you’re not reliable,” she told Lousteau, who was her running mate in 2013’s midterms, when they were both part of UNEN.

Lousteau and Tombolini. Photo: Raúl Ferrari/Telam
Lousteau and Tombolini. Photo: Raúl Ferrari/Telam

In another passage of the debate, the former ambassador to the US addressed Daniel Filmus and inquired – like in every question directed at him – about corruption during the three Kirchner administrations he was part of. “I have personal and professional respect for you, but want to ask you: how bad was the corruption during the last twelve years of Kirchnerism?”

“Corruption has to be sanctioned. That’s what the judiciary is for. There are no ideological divisions when it comes to corruption,” he answered.

But perhaps the most tense moment of the night took place when Ramal criticized Carrió for not making reference to the Santiago Maldonado case during 40 days and asked her why she hadn’t.

“You [the left] march a lot, but never present formal accusations. You talk a lot about facing everything, but actually doing it is not marching, but actually facing the power. You always vote against everything. You’re divine, but are not good for anything,” she fired back.

Ramal, however, followed up and pressured Carrió to answer about her failure to address the question he had initially asked: “you didn’t answer my question about Maldonado. We don’t see you when we fight against the mobs existing in unions. You were asked about the issue [Maldonado case] and all you did was defend [Security Minister Patricia] Bullrich,” he said.

Photo via Telam
Ramal. Photo via Telam

“I want him to be found alive and I’m working on it; I don’t know if he is in Chile, when I know that he’s not I will talk,” Carrió began. She went on to say that she’s sure that “the government has nothing to do with it.” “Now, if a Border Patrol officer was behind it, he or she has to be go to prison for murder and the rest for covering it up.”

Nonetheless, Carrió insisted on Maldonado potentially being in Chile, saying that “there’s a 20 percent chance that this kid is in Chile with the RIM [she meant RAM, acronym for Resistencia Ancestral Mapuche, a group within the indigenous community that has resorted to violent methods to protest for lands they claim have a historic right to].” This statement was met with heckling of the other parties’ supporters present behind the cameras.