Former president Mauricio Macri sparked controversy as he splashed back onto the political stage this week by slamming Argentine society as "the biggest failure of the last 70 years."
Speaking at a high-profile event in Spain, the Juntos por el Cambio leader drew applause from allies as he expressed his hope that "the country which invented populism with Evita and [Juan Domingo] Perón will be the first to remove it."
The comments came at the end of a week in which Macri seemed to be making a move back into frontline politics. With rumours of a potential presidential comeback run growing, the 2015-2019 president also confirmed the release of a new book, Para Que – the "second half" sequel to his 2021 best-seller, Primer Tiempo.
"Clearly the biggest failure in the last 70 years, Argentine society was once one of the world’s five richest and now we are reaching half the population below the poverty line in many regions of the country. That adds up to a lot of pain, a lot of sadness, many anguished and desperate people not understanding why," said the PRO leader.
Speaking in Spain at the Fundación Internacional para la Libertad headed by the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa, Macri declared: "But something different is also happening in Argentina. It’s a long process but I feel that this time people are really learning.”
The opposition leader went on to slam a “savage” Kirchnerism which he said had caused him problems within his own family, especially with his father.
“I devoted 18 years of my life to Argentina and politics, doing enormous damage to my family, because Kirchnerism, like all populism, is savage. They attacked us systematically and demolished us economically,” claimed the former president.
"The Americans talk of learning by doing and I say that we Argentines are learning by suffering. I’m very surprised by what is happening in my country and also very happy," he added.
Casa Rosada run?
Regarding next year’s elections and increasing speculation that he may run once again for the nation’s highest office, Macri remarked: "Today I feel that it is beginning to take shape and was worth the effort. It was never written in stone that this had to continue eternally. Next year the country which perhaps invented populism with Evita and Perón will be the first to remove it and export that to the world."
Warming to his theme, he added: “Argentina is sure to have 20 years of growth as it did at the start of the past century. Argentina will be returning to the world of common sense, the work ethic and meritocracy, which were founded on freedom.”
Macri was also invited to the IV Edición del Foro de La Toja 2022 earlier in the week, where he gave an eye-raising answer to a question on the current state of the world marked by climate change and the war in Ukraine.
“To stay in fashion, I believe in being a swinger in international relations,” said Macri, immediately referring to the trade agreements with China during his presidency to his bemused audience.
"I as a President met six times with Xi Jinping and we made great advances in commercial integration because obviously our country is far more complementary with China than with the United States or the European Union because they need the food and raw materials we have. My government kicked off with a visit to [former US president Barack] Obama and then came [former US president] Donald Trump while I signed the European Union-Mercosur agreement. There is room for everybody to play a role," he explained.
His statements were quickly criticised by Climate Change Secretary Cecilia Nicolini: "Climate change is no fashion or joke and its consequences require us to be up to facing them.”
New book on way
Part of the speculation over another run for the Casa Rosada was fuelled by the news that Macri will be releasing a new book in just 10 days time.
Posting on social media, the former president revealed the cover of his new book, Para qué, published by Planeta which will be for sale from October 18, the successor of last year’s best-seller Primer tiempo.
"We’ll be meeting up in a few days in every bookshop," added Macri in his Twitter post, inviting his supporters to turn out in large numbers to meet him.
The back cover shows the ex-president greeting supporters with outstretched arms, detailing: "This book shows the mysterious path to happiness. It’s about my personal journey and what I’ve learned from it, so many things done and experienced and so many yet to be done. Why I should become president of a football club, why change a city and, above all, why change a country."
"It’s dedicated to those who accompanied me in each one of those stages and to those who today are embarking on their paths, wherever they may lead. For all of you, here goes," he concludes.