Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has backed Economy Minister Sergio Massa’s presidential bid, saying that “to win you have to gamble.”
Nevertheless, Argentina’s vice-president made it clear in remarks on Monday that Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro – whose candidacy was dramatically withdrawn at the last minute – would’ve been the preference of her political space, should a truly competitive primary have gone ahead.
De Pedro had already announced his presidential candidacy for Unión por la Patria, the recently rebranded ruling coalition, but was forced to withdraw it late Saturday after Peronist provincial governors, local mayors and union leaders pushed for a unified ticket in the upcoming August 13 Open and Compulsory Primary Elections (PASO).
“A big surprise, no?” asked the vice-president rhetorically, before explaining that “as a political activist, I argued that it was necessary to build a list of unity that would allow us to tackle the very serious problems facing society.”
Argentina suffers from year-on-year inflation of more than 114 percent, has a poverty rate of 40 percent and an outstanding debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) worth some US$44 billion.
"Activists and citizens will have been surprised to see the candidacy. But to win you have to gamble," said Fernández de Kirchner at the event at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery airport in Buenos Aires.
Contrasting her pro-unity stance with President Alberto Fernández’s insistence on a competitive PASO primary to shape the ruling coalition’s direction, Fernández de Kirchner highlighted that “15 Argentine governors, all from our political space, had asked for a list of unity," along with Peronist mayors in Buenos Aires Province.
She also criticised Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz and Argentina’s Ambassador to Brazil Daniel Scioli for presenting their runs for office too early.
Monday’s support for Massa was Fernández de Kirchner’s first public backing of the economy minister, who does not hail from the left-wing arm of the coalition that she leads.
Speaking at an event marking the repatriation of a cargo plane once used in the so-called ‘death flights’ that took place under the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, the vice-president acknowledged that some of her backers would be disappointed.
Fernández de Kirchner also highlighted that Peronism had suffered defeat in the 2021 midterms and had gone on to "fight among themselves." Aiming her fire at President Alberto Fernández, she again criticised his support for competitive primaries.
Prior to the closure of candidacies last Saturday midnight, Fernández de Kirchner said that she had told Massa she supported his bid if there was “a list of unity, supported by governors and mayors.” Otherwise, “if there is a PASO, our force will go with its own candidate,” she explained.
The vice-president, who served two terms as president from 2007 to 2015, admitted that De Pedro was her preference, highlighting his personal story as a child of parents who were disappeared by the dictatorship.
Fernández de Kirchner praised his decision to step down and place himself "where the project demands.”
Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, one of the main opposition coalition's frontrunners, described the Massa-Rossi ticket as more of the same.
"Massa is Kirchnerism, the continuity, the re-election of Alberto Fernández," the City mayor, who has enjoyed warm relations with Massa for decades, said in an interview with Radio Rivadavia.
"It's the government, it's Alberto Fernández and Cristina [Fernández de] Kirchner, it's the Kirchnerism that led us to this failed government, with very high levels of inflation where people no longer make it to the end of the week, not to the end of the month,” said Rodríguez Larreta.