Buenos Aires City Deputy Mayor Diego Santilli launched his Congress candidacy for the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition in the La Plata suburb of City Bell on Thursday, but first he must clear the hurdle of the September 12 PASO primaries against a Radical list headed by the neuroscientist Facundo Manes.
"I’m a guy who moves ahead, we have to be able to change this province," said Santilli at the campaign launch, just two days before today’s deadline for the presentation of lists expires.
He will be seconded in his slate of candidates by incumbent deputies Graciela Ocaña and Juan Manuel López, among others.
Santilli was joined in City Bell by various leading opposition figures including City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Patricia Bullrich, who chairs Santilli’s PRO centre-right party, Civic Coalition-ARI leader Elisa Carrió and Mauricio Macri’s 2015 running-mate and now Auditor-General Miguel Angel Pichetto, all supporting him with their presence and also in brief speeches (in the cases of Rodríguez Larreta and Carrió) which further criticised the government.
As literally a note of colour, the launch was accompanied by a photo showing nothing but Santilli’s red hair and circulated on the social networks.
"I feel the rage of the people in the street over the current situation," began the candidate, adding: "Today reality overtakes the narrative. Today we have an immense opportunity and we must find that road. We Argentines are fed up with not being able to dream of more safety, more employment and less poverty.”
Later he told a press conference: "Primaries broaden parties, we are going to compete in a healthy and rational fashion with common sense. Our adversary is Kirchnerism," differing himself from the ruling Frente de Todos coalition by saying: "We’re not a team which blames you, imposes itself on you or mistreats you."
Santilli then added some figures to his critique of the government: "Six out of every 10 children live in poverty, 90,700 shops and 42,1000 PyMES [small and medium-sized businesses]have closed down, leaving almost 200,000 Argentines out of work. The important thing is that we can change this reality." He also expanded on what he had done to make the Federal Capital a safer place.
In his speech to promote his deputy mayor, Rodríguez Larreta repeated the word “unity” several times and praised both Bullrich and Vicente López Mayor Jorge Macri for standing down.
"We’re all in this together to work for the Argentines, for education, for a health system and to improve safety from crime," said the mayor.
Following the launch Santilli presented his resignation as deputy mayor on the same day to the City Legislature, which will now have to approve the vacancy in its next session.
This move frees the PRO leader from his City Hall responsibilities in order to concentrate on his election campaign, which for the next seven weeks will focus on his internal rivals for September’s PASO primaries, the Radical list under Manes.
The neuroscientist assured this week that he would not be competing in the PASO primaries against Santilli but against "Argentine decadence in order to save our kids from their anguish." The grieta rift "brutalises" people, he contended, considering that "the challenge in this campaign is to help the most vulnerable to live better."
Manes, appealed to "Peronists, socialists and liberals" to help the Radicals who wish to head a "grand coalition of the popular centre," underlining that "Argentina’s chronic involution will not be solved from a single sector."
"I hope that Radicalism convokes everybody for modern progress," underlined Manes, who is expected to formally confirm his Congress candidacy today.
Ruling coalition’s line up
Meanwhile the head of the National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies, Victoria Tolosa Paz (who still remains a city councillor in the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata), remains the strong frontrunner to head the Frente de Todos list for Congress, even if President Alberto Fernández continued to avoid either confirming or denying the nomination of his favourite for the slot.
She is expected to be seconded on the ticket by Buenos Aires Province Health Minister Daniel Gollán, whose candidacy has the support of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, according to reports.