National deputy José Luis Espert has thrust himself into Juntos por el Cambio’s internal positioning ahead of the PASO primaries, reigniting the opposition coalition’s debate over how to appeal to libertarian voters.
The Avanza Libertad deputy said this week that he is in talks with opposition leaders about joining forces in Buenos Aires Province in a new alliance. He also called on his libertarian ex-ally Javier Milei to consider doing the same in the nation’s capital.
"I’d go up against [PRO’s Diego] Santilli in the PASO primaries" in Buenos Aires Province, said the lawmaker, responding to questioning over whether a grand opposition front can be formed to take on the ruling Peronist coalition.
Espert, 61, detailed that he has began "to converse with Juntos por el Cambio, with Patricia Bullrich, with [Elisa] Carrió, [Alfredo] Cornejo, [Gerardo] Morales and [Maximiliano] Abad over a new opposition line-up."
He told the press: "We want to go beyond mega-PASO primaries to liberalism forming part of a new alliance so that Kirchnerism never again returns and that should not depend any more on which economic reforms we liberals will be able to put through. The idea is to compete.”
The annual dinner of Fundación Libertad, the Ibero-American think tank of the right, was the scenario in which Espert shook hands with several Juntos por el Cambio leaders, including ex-president Mauricio Macri and City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
The Avanza Libertad deputy says he’s confident that the conversations he is maintaining will end with his inclusion in the opposition front. He also called on his libertarian colleague Javier Milei to join, saying he is "super-invited."
"We are conversing with the main Juntos por el Cambio leaders to assemble a new opposition front to Kirchnerism where liberalism enters on an equal footing, at least in institutional and political terms, with the Radicals, PRO and the Civic Coalition," maintained the economist.
In a later interview with Radio La990, the liberal leader specified: "We would be the fourth leg of this new opposition grouping, highly liberal with a clear identification with common-sense ideas."
Consulted about the possibility of his lower house colleague Milei also joining, the economist commented: "He has always been invited to everything but has decided to do his own thing."
He added: “I’d be delighted if he did compete: it’s not about everybody agreeing with each other but competing from within."
City Hall official Silvia Lospennato gave a guarded welcome to Espert’s proposal, while not extending it to Milei.
“He’s a person who’s always worked with his liberal ideas but within the framework of democracy,” she highlighted in an interview with Net TV and Radio Perfil.
"A primary can always be an opportunity to grow a lot but also with the risk of shrinking if played without rules in a spirit of anything goes and if the candidates dedicate themselves to criticising their rivals instead of presenting proposals. It would be a tremendous error, throwing overboard 20 years of work by Mauricio Macri, among others, to construct this political force," she said.
"Espert is my Congress colleague and yesterday we chatted a bit during the session. I have different outlooks over many issues but we also agree over many others and he’s a person who has always worked with his liberal ideas but within the framework of democracy and with great respect for the institutions. If he wants to join Juntos, which always wants to expand, even to include other sectors of liberalism which are more right-wing populists than liberals, it seems to me a proposal which we must evaluate."
"I differentiate notably in relation to respect for the Republic and Congress. They are not all the same. The liberals of José Luis Espert are one thing and the rightwing populists of Javier Milei another. That’s why [Ricardo] López Murphy could join."
Espert’s fellow-deputy Carolina Piparo responded to these developments by proclaiming her departure from the Avanza Libertad caucus following Espert’s announcement that he would be seeking an electoral agreement with Juntos por el Cambio, opting instead for Milei.
She formalised her exit in a letter to Congress Speaker Cecilia Moreau.
"Due to incompatible political visions which have been brewing in recent times, I have decided to leave the Avanza Libertad caucus," expressed the deputy.
At the same time that she confirmed her estrangement from Espert, Piparo has been negotiating a possible mayoral candidacy in the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata on behalf of Milei’s La Libertad Avanza.
For over a year Piparo has been maintaining contacts with the provincial deputy Nahuel Sotelo, who also left Espert to join Milei in dissatisfaction with the former’s rapprochement with Juntos por el Cambio.