Amid the rain and the mud, hundreds and hundreds of devotees gathered outside the Jorge Luis Borges salon at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair on Thursday night, hoping to catch a glimpse of former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as she presented her new book, Sinceramente.
“I want to thank the thousands and thousands of people who have purchased my book during these difficult times,” said the Unidad Ciudadana leader as she addressed a capacity crowd that was filled with invited guests, and as hundreds more watched on screens outside.
But first, there were the formalities. Sitting alongside her onstage, Fernández de Kirchner was joined by two others who introduced her: Juan Ignacio Boido, the director of Penguin Random House Editorial Group Argentina and María Teresa Carbano, the President of the Book Foundation that organises the Feria.
Fernández de Kirchner began her speech with acknowledgements, most notably thanking her ex-official and ally Alberto Fernández, crediting him with giving her the idea to write the book in the first place.
“He told me that it distressed him the things that they said about me and Néstor, about the kids, about the life of our family, about our relationship as a couple,” she said, referring to her late husband Néstor Kirchner.
Kirchner even admitted that the original title of the book, which she says she began writing last year in April, was supposed to be “Néstor and I,” a tribute to the former president.
As she spoke at the event, spectators inside the salon and those standing outside screamed and clapped, chanting phrases like “We will return” and “President Cristina.” The only difference being that many of those who stood outside did so with a beer in hand, soaked through from the rain.
Cristina’s militant supporters were ecstatic to see their heroine return to frontline politics.
“The book is for the people that know Cristina, there’s nothing new. This is the thinking of the Cristina that we know, but those who don’t know her now have the possibility to meet a different Cristina,” said Mariana Centurión, a 55-year-old women from greater Buenos Aires, as she stood in the downpour.
“She is an example of the Peronism that we want, the Peronism of Perón and Evita,” she added.
With the presidential election on the horizon and the current economic recession in full swing, many of her supporters had hope that she would announce her candidacy at the event, but true to form, Kirchner remained quiet with regards to a potential candidacy, possibly waiting for a date closer to the closing of the lists for the primaries.
“I believe that the only person with a real capability to reactivate the country is her, there is nobody like her,” said Gastón Cueno, a 19-year-old who was in attendance. “Kirchernismo is just a transformative process and we hope that it returns.”
Not much earlier, during her speech, Kirchner had referred to young Argentines as her “great bet and her great hope.”
Cueno was flanked by his father, 56-year-old Roberto Cueno, who said that although he identifies as a Peronist, he doesn’t share the same love for the former president that his son feels. He was here to accompany his son, he said.
Toward the end of the event, the former president departed the salon and went straight for her supporters, breaking the barrier between her invited guests and her devoted followers, who were watching her speech from outside on the muddied lawn.
Walking up to the fences in her white blazer, she climbed a step or two and waved to the crowd. Into a microphone she shouted her thanks to those that had come to see her, as they ran towards her and jumped, chanted, and yelled in the rain.
“My impression is that after this, she will make the decision to run to become our next president,” said Centurión confidently.