Vice-presidential candidate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been strongly criticised after controversially comparing access to food in Argentina to the crisis-stricken Latin American nation.
Speaking at an event in San Martín, Mendoza province, on Saturday – at which she presented her latest book, Sinceramente ("Sincerely") – the Frente de Todos candidate once again returned to the issue of access to food, in an attempt to criticise the Mauricio Macri administration's management of the economy. Echoing earlier declarations, she said food and products were in short supply.
Then, the former president controversially declared that Argentina "was the same as Venezuela with food."
"That people can not eat in a country like Argentina is abuse. We are not in Africa or in some desert wasteland where there is no-one. We are a country that produces food for 400 million people," she said.
"Do you remember that they said that if we [her government] continued we would turn into Venezuela? Sorry, but today, with food, we are the same as Venezuela," said Fernández de Kirchner.
Addressing her running-mate Alberto Fernández's chances of winning October's presidential election, Fernández de Kirchner said she viewed the vote with "a lot of hope, because societies don't commit suicide."
She added: "I can't imagine four more years with these policies."
Pushback arrived quickly, both from experts, local politicians and Venezuelans themselves. Within hours the hashtag '#SraCristinaLeCuentoQue,' exploded on Twitter, as Venezuelans shared their experiences of life under Nicolás Maduro's administration.
"Venezuelans have come to Argentina fleeing the worst humanitarian crisis, a failed model that you, Cristina Kirchner, were complicit in [creating]. It's shameful to make fun of Venezuelans using this theme for their campaign," said Venezuelan sociologist Charbel Najm in a video posted online.
Gathering statistics on food insecurity in Venezuela is difficult, given the lack of trustworthy data. However, according to the university-led Survey of Living Conditions (Encovi) poll, 80 percent of households in Venezuela are suffering from food insecurity, while 89 percent of families say they don't have enough income to purchase sufficient food. Poverty levels in Venezuela for 2018 stood at 51 percent.
International analyst Andrei Serbin Pont, meanwhile, contrasted purchasing power in the two nations, posting on Twitter that "in Venezuela a minimum wage buys four litres of milk. In Argentina a minimum wage buys 297 litres of milk."
"Do not banalize or minimize the Venezuelan humanitarian emergency @CFKArgentina!" he added.
In an interview with Radio La Red, Ianina Tuñón, a researcher with the Social Debt Observatory of the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) added his voice to the objections.
"It cannot be compared because we do not have objective statistical data about what is happening in Venezuela, and because it is public knowledge that the situation of poverty in that country is much more serious than in Argentina," Tuñón added.
Politicians also jumped into the fray. Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio told La Nación said "if Cristina's government and the policies of Kirchnerismo had continued" after 2015 Argentina would be "on the way to what is happening today in Venezuela."
"That is why we cannot afford to go back, because that danger is still latent," he added.
Outsider presidential candidate and economist José Luis Espert also expressed his outrage, describing the comments as "an absurd and ridiculous statement."