Argentina’s five vice-presidential candidates staged a heated television debate on Wednesday night, with clashes on topics including the economy, crime and security, justice and most notably, human rights.
Victoria Villarruel (La Libertad Avanza), Luis Petri (Juntos por el Cambio), Agustín Rossi (Unión por la Patria), Florencio Randazzo (Hacemos por Nuestro País) and Nicolás Del Caño (Frente de Izquierda) participated in the first debate of veeps hosted by the TN news channel.
In a feisty, bad-tempered debate, the running-mates of the five presidential candidates sparred for almost two hours, just over a month out from the national elections.
Libertarian hopeful Villarruel was among the aggressors, delivering harsh condemnation of the government and targeting Rossi, whom she accused snidely of being a "politician." At times, she branded her other rivals and their responses simply as "nonsense."
Rossi, in turn, went on the attack, focusing his criticism on Petri and Villarruel, whom he jabbed with questions over her party’s stance on the Malvinas Islands sovereignty claim.
"You can't be hesitant about Malvinas. You can't be an admirer of [former UK prime minister Margaret] Thatcher and say: 'I'm going to ask the islanders' to see what I'm going to do to awaken their interests,’" complained the Santa Fe native.
Villarruel replied: "For us, the claim to sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands is a claim that we will continue to uphold because it is our land, and we are not just saying it for electoral purposes.”
The Cabinet chief also questioned Javier Milei's vice-president for denying "climate change, the military dictatorship, baby-stealing, torture, social justice, public health, public education, public works.”
"It is tragic that in Argentina in 40 years of democracy we have a denialist party," emphasised the ruling coalition’s vice-presidential candidate, attacking her failure to condemn atrocities committed by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
Petri, Patricia Bullrich's running-mate, also took aim at the libertarian, whom he criticised for not presenting bills in Congress.
"I want to ask Victoria Villarruel what she has done during these 20 months as a legislator and if she has presented any security project: the answer is zero," Petri stressed, accusing her of being a “ñoqui" [a state employee who does nothing].
Left-wing candidate Del Caño also came out strongly against Villarruel over her previous remarks on sex education. "I want to ask her if he is going to repress the girls and boys who defend comprehensive sex education, which is a fundamental tool for identifying abuses,” he asked.
"The only populism and disaster here is that of the left. For two decades the most corrupt coalition that the Argentine Republic has known has been governing and this man has nothing else to say but to talk to me about my family and about issues that absolutely nobody cares about,” responded Villarruel, before adding: “Sex education has to be based on biology and not on the ideology of the teacher or the political militants that you use to indoctrinate in education.”
After the scheduled topics, the candidates were able to choose one of their opponents in order to quiz them face-to-face. Rossi wasted no time, charging against Villarruel.
"You are like [dictatorship-era military officer Alfredo] Astiz, who infiltrated the Madres [de Plaza de Mayo], you are an infiltrator of democracy," Rossi slammed his rival, who had earlier asked him why he had defended former Army chief César Milani.
Randazzo also asked the libertarian to explain why she criticises the "caste" if Javier Milei meets with veteran trade union leader Luis Barrionuevo.
"We have to talk to all sectors, regardless of whether we agree or not," responded the national deputy.