Sparking a fresh round of unrest for Juntos por el Cambio, Elisa ‘Lilita’ Carrió this week exposed a rift in the opposition with a round of complaints attacking coalition allies for their alleged ties to new Economy Minister Sergio Massa.
Reappearing on the scene after a few weeks of silence, Carrió made a fierce return to the headlines with comments that highlight divisions in the opposition front. Massa’s appointment “made transparent” the links between him and a number of her allies, she said, before moving on to target a number of influential figures.
Her sweeping condemnation of dealings with Massa, who took office last week, prompted an angry pushback from key Juntos por el Cambio leaders. Among them, PRO party chair Patricia Bullrich, who slammed the onslaught and said “the impunity of the word has to end."
The comments were strong enough to prompt additional responses from many leaders, with Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Rogelio Frigerio, Gerardo Morales, Emilio Monzó and Cristian Ritondo all calling on Carrió to apologise for remarks that gained heavy traction on social media.
"I have a deep respect for Lilita, one of the founders of the space along with Mauricio [Macri], but I do not agree with her statements these days,” said Rodríguez Larreta, the only one of the abovementioned who was not targeted.
Carrió, a former national deputy and presidential candidate, left the Buenos Aires City mayor out of her attacks, telling the LN+ news channel this week: "He is a personal friend of Massa, but I am sure that he is not involved in any of these businesses."
Bullrich came out most harshly in response. "As president of the PRO I cannot look favourably on the degrading spectacle of Carrió bashing leaders of Juntos por el Cambio objecting to their ethical conduct. And this without looking at her own and that of her allies," said the PRO chairperson, adding that: "The impunity of the word has to end. Not everything goes.”
The behaviour of the Coalición Cívica-ARI leader, who renewed her attacks in a series of interviews throughout the week, prompted calls for “rules of decency” to be drawn up ahead of next year’s presidential election to protect unity.
Critics quipped that she should observe her own code of conduct that prevented her ragging on coalition allies, while she responded that rules should ensure only “decent people” are allowed to form part of Juntos por el Cambio.
"Carrió is looking after her electoral interests and to see how she can get more deputies,” Ritondo later told the Clarín newspaper. “Today she is operating on one side of the internal conflict. I regret that she does it this way. I never negotiated with Massa in the government in the province, it was not my function,"
Nevertheless, the outspoken leader remained unrepentant as the week moved on.
"[Former president Mauricio] Macri and I are the leaders of Juntos por el Cambio, of PRO and the Coalición Cívica, which we put together. And there is the leader of Radicalism [Gerardo Morales], who is the chairman of the party. Each one is the leader of his or her own space," Lilita said on LN+ television.
Carrió headlined her attacks with complaints over business and political ties with Massa, the third key leader in the ruling Frente de Todos coalition who until last week held the key post of Congress Speaker.
Carrió began her round of friendly fire by saying she had been “choked by not being able to say some things in the name of unity." Her complaints took aim at the “Peronists" in the opposition coalition who had formed “a partnership with” Massa and his followers.
“In the government of [former Buenos Aires Province governor] María Eugenia Vidal the collusion, friendship and eventually business between [Cristian] Ritondo and Massa were absolute,” she claimed.
“What I saw in the Chamber of Deputies with [Emilio] Monzó, who is also a close friend, is scandalous. I also saw Frigerio supporting all the Massa candidates and denigrating our candidates. And I said so to Macri."
Most controversially, she even referenced an alleged romantic relationship between Frigerio and Joanna Picetti, a former candidate for national deputy who was eventually blocked from running for office in controversial circumstances.
Towards the end of the week, Carrió upped the ante: "If they want me to, I’ll retire but I'm not going to lie. I am not going to leave politics without telling the truth to society," she told Radio Mitre.