Former Santa Fe governor Hermes Binner, 77, Argentina’s first socialist provincial governor and runner-up in the 2011 presidential elections, died yesterday of acute pneumonia (after testing negative for coronavirus).
A doctor by training, he always gave priority to public health, whether as Rosario mayor, provincial governor or presidential candidate.
Binner had entered hospital in Casilda (located in the south of his native province) last Sunday but his condition deteriorated sharply in the last 24 hours of his life when he was transferred to intensive therapy.
After graduating in medicine from Rosario University, Binner only entered politics in the last third of his life, despite having been a socialist militant from early youth (adhering to the Popular Socialist Party wing of the divided movement headed by Guillermo Estévez Boero). His medical career was spent entirely in public hospitals, rising to be their provincial director.
Entering Rosario municipal politics as city councillor and health secretary in 1993, he quickly became the crown prince of socialist mayor Héctor Cavallero, whom he succeeded in 1995, earning a second term in 1999. In 2003 he sought to take the next step up as Santa Fe gubernatorial candidate but although he topped the vote, he lost out to Peronist Jorge Obeid who picked up the votes of his Peronist rivals under the Ley de Lemas simultaneous primary-election system.
In the 2005 national midterms he was elected deputy for Santa Fe at the head of the Progressive, Civic and Social Front coalition uniting his Socialists with the Radicals and other parties. This combination carried him to government house in 2007 with 48.6 percent of the vote, thus ending 24 years of Peronist rule.
As governor he continued to wear his medical hat, simultaneously decentralising the health sector with the construction of 60 health centres while centralising it by building three hospitals of advanced complexity.
In 2011 he was anointed the presidential candidate of the Frente Amplio Progresista with Norma Morandini as his running-mate when he faced the thankless task of facing a recently widowed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on her way to a landslide (54 percent), finishing as a distant second with 16.8 percent of the vote but ahead of all other candidates including the Radical Ricardo Alfonsín.