Mauricio Macri “broke his silence” on Sunday to issue a stark criticism of President Alberto Fernández’s government and its approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former president, who led Argentina from 2015 to 2019 before losing to the Peronist leader in last October's election, penned a column for the La Nación newspaper that accused Fernández of leading a “systematic and permanent attack” on Argentina’s Constitution.
In the missive, he accused the government of seeking to “subjugate the middle class” in order to “get clients who depend on the favour of the State to survive.”
President Fernández introduced a strict nationwide lockdown to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in Argentina on March 20. Though restrictions have been loosened in nearly all of Argentina’s provinces almost six months on, many measures remain in place,
The publication of Macri’s column coincided with the latest in a series of anti-government ‘Banderazo’ rallies. This Sunday’s incarnation saw protests at the Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires, as well as cities such as Córdoba, Rosario, La Plata and Mar del Plata. Previous demonstrations have taken place over the past few months, as resistance to the quarantine grows.
Many demonstrators at Sunday's rallies expressed anger at the government’s quarantine measures, though most focused on the Peronist government’s judicial reform bill.
The proposed legislation is awaiting debate in the lower house Chamber of Deputies after passing through the Senate.
Macri has generally kept a low profile since leaving the Casa Rosada, limiting his interventions into political debate. His column, however, was a sharp attack at his successor’s administration.
"The authorities at the head of the National Executive Branch have been deploying a series of measures that consist of a systematic and permanent attack on our Constitution. In order to govern without limits, they violate the fundamental laws of the nation, which are charged with guaranteeing the protection of our basic rights and individual freedoms in the face of any attempt at abuse of power by the authorities," the former president wrote in La Nación.
"Sanitary restrictions are used to prevent the free movement of people,” he charged, accusing the government of seeking “social control and to prevent citizens from expressing their disagreement with the measures that are taken,” which he said were harming citizens and threatening their wellbeing.
"It is not possible to produce or work to bring bread to the table of Argentine families, because the idea is to subjugate the middle class to get clients who depend on the favour of the State to survive," he added.
The former president, who recently returned from just over a month overseas in Europe on a trip that combined vacation time and work for his role with the FIFA Foundation, closed on an optimistic note, saying he felt Argentine society had “matured” and would continue to defend their rights under the Constitution.
Macri – who posted a link to the column on his Twitter feed, saying he had decided to “break his silence” – praised peaceful protesters expressing their anger at the lockdown, hailing a “united opposition that stands as an alternative.”
‘Todos a las calles’
As Macri’s piece was published in the Sunday press, protesters across Argentina were preparing the latest in a series of anti-government protests.
Convened by opposition supporters on social media, rallies took place across the country, while social media users showed their discontent by airing their anger under the hashtags: #13STodosALasCalles, #13SPorLaRepublica and #13SJuntosContraLaIMPUNIDAD.
Many protesters, who draped themselves in national flags, called for an end to the coronavirus lockdown and its accompanying restrictions, though nearly all expressed their ire at the government's judicial reform bill. Others called for an end to an end to the release of Kirchnerite-aligned prisoners, "impunity and corruption" and rising crime.
Government officials have criticised the demonstrations, saying they are irresponsible given that Covid-19 infections are on the rise.
Last week, Argentina surpassed 500,000 infections of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. There have been more than 11,000 fatalities.
Health Ministry officials said 9,056 new cases had been recorded on Sunday, with 99 deaths.