Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been criticised by his coalition ally Elisa Carrió after his decision to be vaccinated against Covid-19 while in Miami last week.
Carrió, an influential leader in the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition, did not directly mention Macri by name in her remarks. But she did tell the La Nación newspaper in an interview that a “leader of convictions and principles” should not “go and vaccinate in Miami.”
Macri, who served as head of state from 2015 to 2019, revealed on May 9 that he had received a shot of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. The jab was given at a pharmacy in Miami during the former president’s visit to the United States for a conference earlier this month.
"While in the US I was able to verify that vaccines are applied anywhere, from beaches to shopping centres, and even in pharmacies. I myself have been able to apply Johnson's single-dose vaccine at a pharmacy," Macri wrote in a post that criticised President Alberto Fernández's government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The news came as something of a surprise, given that spokespersons for the former president had told local outlets just two days earlier that the 62-year-old would not have a jab until “all the people at risk and essential workers have been vaccinated," according to an unnamed aide quoted by Perfil.
"Argentina could have had millions of vaccines at its disposal,” Macri said, charging that the “pandemic has exposed the will of many governments to manipulate the system to seek impunity."
Carrió, however, questioned the former president in an interview published Sunday, implying that the decision to be vaccinated abroad would lead some to question Macri’s leadership.
"A leader is born, not made. Now, leaderships can be destroyed. And that is a warning to everyone. A leader has to sustain his leadership,” said the Civic Coalition leader, whose party is one of three tridents of the opposition coalition.
“If I was a leader of convictions and principles, I cannot go and vaccinate in Miami. Is that clear? I maintain it. I live as I say I live," said the former deputy, who backed Macri’s successful 2015 presidential run as part of the Cambiemos coalition.
Pressed specifically on Macri’s vaccination, Carrió told La Nación: “What I'm saying is that you hold the leadership as long as you are what you say you are – you can't sell leadership and then have two or three faces. Elections can be won, but leadership is another thing.”
UCR Senator Julio Cobos, a fellow coalition leader, also criticised the decision. "When you are in politics and say something, you have to support it," he told CNN En Español. "He should not have done it. He said he was going to be vaccinated here when it was time."
Macri’s close ally Patricia Bullrich, the leader of the former president’s PRO party who served as security minister during his four-year term in office, defended the decision to be vaccinated. She sought to contrast it with the 'VIP vaccine' scandal, which forced the resignation of health minister Gines González García amid revelations that government allies and officials had been given jabs out of turn.
Macri "did not use a vaccine from the Argentine people,” said Bullrich. “He did not jump the queue, he did not take a vaccine from those over 80 years old. He made a trip and he had the opportunity to get vaccinated."
Without quoting a source, Bullrich claimed that 20,000 Argentines had been vaccinated overseas and decried the lack of government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, branding it “a failure.”
“The vaccine that Mauricio Macri did not use will be able to be used by someone here in Argentina," she told the TN news channel.
"What the ruling party has to do is have vaccines so that they [Argentine citizens] are not vaccinated abroad,” concluded Bullrich.
The criticism highlights the growing debate over Macri’s role in the opposition coalition, which has settled over the past year into two camps – nicknamed “doves” and “hawks” by some local analysts – amid something of a leadership vacuum.
The former president is known to be keen on another run for the Casa Rosada in 2023, though moderates prefer their candidate to be Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
Juntos por el Cambio will soon have to define its slate of candidates for the upcoming PASO primaries and midterm elections, which have been pushed back by a month due to the coronavirus pandemic. The future of figures like ex-Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal and Buenos Aires City Deputy Mayor Diego Santilli are still yet to be decided.
Macri was in Córdoba on Monday to promote the release of his memoir, Primer Tiempo, which hints that the former president believes his political journey is not over. He may, however, not get to decide.
Speaking to La Nación, Carrió said that she had not spoken to Macri "for a long time." Asked about a possible "second half" for the former president, Carrió was careful not to rule out anything.
"No-one in Argentina knows what will happen tomorrow – how is anyone going to know what will happen in three years (sic)?"