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ARGENTINA | 28-02-2023 15:42

Empty square: Social movements will stay off streets for president’s speech to Congress

When he delivers his flagship state-of-the-nation speech to Congress on Wednesday, President Alberto Fernández will not be able to count on the support of government-aligned social movements on the streets.

Key social organisations and movements aligned to the ruling Frente de Todos coalition will not demonstrate when Alberto Fernández gives a flagship speech to Congress this week, underlining their discontent with the government and the president’s plans for re-election.

Fernández, who intends to stand in his front’s presidential primaries later this year, is due to deliver his annual state-of-the-nation address on Wednesday to inaugurate the congressional year.

The Peronist leader, 63, has been able to count on the support of a number of influential social organisations during his time in office, with leaders from several groups – such as Emilio Pérsico, the president of La Patria de los Comunes, and Daniel Menéndez, an official at the Social Development Ministry – taking on positions in his national administration. 

But on Tuesday, two key movements, Movimiento Evita and Somos Barrios de Pie, announced they would break with recent tradition.

"We are going to be waiting to see what the president says in his speech, but we are not going to mobilise, as we did last year," said Menéndez, the national coordinator of Barrios de Pie. 

"Frente de Todos’ leadership didn’t plan it either. We decided that on this occasion it is not convenient to go along,” continued the government official, who serves as undersecretary for integration and training policies.

"We will not mobilise on March 1 because it is a scenario that validates the [presidential] candidacy of Alberto Fernández and that today divides Frente de Todos,” agreed Movimiento Evita leader Gildo Onorato. “We want there to be unity and we are going to work so that, through the PASO or by consensus, we can build a competitive proposal.”

Since Fernández took office in 2019, it has been customary for government-aligned social movements to rally at the Plaza del Congreso on the morning of the congressional address to listen to the president’s speech. The fact that two major groups have now decided to break with that tradition will serve as a warning sign for the ruling coalition, which is struggling to show a unified front as this year’s elections draw ever closer.

Fernández, 63, wants to stand for re-election, though members of the Kirchnerite wing of the coalition would prefer his vice-president, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to run.

The absence of the pro-government groups is directly related to the coalition’s candidacies and the head of state's intention to be re-elected. If Fernández seeks a popular reception and warm welcome to greet him at Congress on Wednesday, he will have to appeal to other sectors within Frente de Todos that remain on good terms, such as the major trade unions.


 

– TIMES/PERFIL

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