Flanked by his running-mate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, presidential frontrunner Alberto Fernández called on Argentines to bring an end to "four years of submission" on Thursday, as the duo held a rare joint campaign appearance on Peronist loyalty day.
Just 10 days from Argentina's crunch election, in which the Peronist hopeful is seeking to defeat President Mauricio Macri, Fernández and his vice-presidential ally drew a large crowd to the Parque Recreativo Don Tomás de Santa Rosa in La Pampa, as they sought to invoke Juan Domingo Perón and rally their base.
The date of the event was chosen to coincide with Peronist loyalty day, an event that marks the founding of Peronism. The two heading the Frente de Todos tickets have barely appeared together during campaigning – just three times in total – with the former president choosing instead to host events promoting her best-selling book, Sinceramente.
"We were born on October 17, taking care of all those who had been marginalised in Argentine society," declared Fernandez, who emerged from the August 11 PASO primaries with a shock 16-point lead over his rival.
"Surely when Macri ends his term, poverty will reach 40 percent of Argentines and so they will leave el pueblo mired in misery," he added.
"Cristina and I know that it is not us alone who are going to raise up the country, it is all of you. It is the whole of Argentina that wants us to recover, and to have dignity again," added Fernandez, who is heading a rare unified Peronist coalition in his bid for power.
In a show of Peronist unity, governors, trade unionists, legislators and other figures were mostly all in attendance. In recent years, different factions of the movement have held multiple acts across the country. This time around, unity was the message.
In his speech, Fernández accused the president "telling lies" and said he "continues to lie." He described Macri's performance in last Sunday's presidential debate as "shameless."
"They tell us that Argentina has a cyclical problem," said Fernández, who briefly served as Fernández de Kirchner's Cabinet chief, before quitting and becoming a fierce critic of her administration. "When they come to power they destroy everything that was built."
Fernández predicted that if he won the election, his coalition would "build an Argentina that includes us all, not for a few of us, so that people find work, develop and be happy."
"We are very close but we have not arrived. A further effort is needed," he added.
'Neoliberalism never again!'
Speaking prior to the presidential hopeful, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner declared that "ordinary men and women" had "suffered the policies of devastation."
However, the former president – who served in office for two terms from 2007 to 2015 – warned that "a hard task" lay ahead, should they win election, accusing Macri of leading an administration that had "impoverished" Argentina.
"Neoliberalism never again, compatriots, in our country!" she declared.
"Every time you attacked me, I felt your support," she added. "So we rebuilt this unit so that on December 10 there is another Argentine sitting in the Casa Rosada."
Peronist iconography was all over the stage and among the crowds. Before the candidates took to the stage, images of Juan Domingo Perón, Eva Perón and late former president Néstor Kirchner were projected onto huge screens.
Peronist loyalty day is held on October 17 to mark the same day of 1945 when a massive labour demonstration was held to call for the release of then-Colonel Peròn, then serving as labour minister, who had been imprisoned over a dispute with the military government.