A few days ago, one of the important (and hermetic) political meetings of the election campaign was held – not to define candidates for the upcoming PASO primaries but to mark out the government’s wider course for the midterms. Frente de Todos intends to win – with vaccination progressing, the economy, the conclave’s dominant issue, now has to be addressed.
For several hours in early July, Alberto Fernández hosted at his Olivos presidential residence not only Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner but also Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, Economy Minister Martín Guzmán and Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof.
In the presence of Guzmán, the minister in charge of the portfolio, the discussion centred on the economic course for the electoral campaign. The veep asked for the austerity of the first quarter of this year to be carried no further. That issue – as well negotiations with the International Monetary Fund – are the main differences between Guzmán’s camp and Kirchnerism.
Fernández de Kirchner repeats again and again that Frente de Todos won the 2019 elections in order to attend to social demands which the pandemic has intensified, concentrating her influence there, as already demonstrated last year by the changes in the bill to update pensions.
The former president’s latest move was made in conjunction with lower house Speaker Sergio Massa – breaking the wage guidelines respecting the Budget inflation forecast of 29 percent by granting congressional staff an increase of 40 percent, thus raising the bar for all other negotiations.
At what was the first meeting between Guzmán and the veep since the arm-wrestling battle won by Kirchnerism over the continuation of Electrical Energy Undersecretary Federico Basualdo, different plans were evaluated over how to inject money into the street. Kicillof’s participation was by virtue of his role as governor of the key region of Buenos Aires Province, but he is also one of the leaders to whom Fernández de Kirchner listens most when it comes to the economy. The provincial leader is on good terms with Guzmán – they have known each other since 2014 and talk every day.
As far as Perfil could reconstruct, the meeting focused on attending to the lower classes, but the middle class will also be assisted with a battery of measures to boost consumption, aiming at sectors hard hit by the pandemic, such as restaurants, hotels, textiles and footwear.
One plan set to be announced is the implementation of a ‘Plan Ahora 24,’ once the current Plan Ahora 12 financing credit card purchases with three, six, 12 or 18 fixed monthly instalments expires at the end of this month.
The meeting took place one day before Guzmán headed to Europe to continue Argentina’s debt negotiations with the IMF on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Venice. The minister wants to seal a deal while Kirchnerism (whose position is expressed by Lower House caucus chief Máximo Kirchner) demands that any agreement be stretched beyond the statutory 10 years.
Meanwhile, the government’s parallel "Monday panel," as revealed by Perfil, continues debating the likely electoral line-ups for Buenos Aires Province, meeting once again in Kicillof’s official residence to evaluate the profile required of candidates. There Massa, Máximo Kirchner, Public Works Minister Gabriel Katopodis and outgoing Lomas de Zamora Mayor Martín Insaurralde, among others, analyse the profile, role and numbers of the City of Buenos Aires candidate.
"Leandro Santoro has a tough and confrontational role although he comes across as moderate, we need to see if we need to combine Alberto and Kirchnerism more for the province," they explained.
The discussion is far from over but what remains certain is that candidates are not in surplus. With the president resisting calls to send any in-office officials to the lists, Kirchnerism does not have an ample electoral supply to clinch victory beyond a display of full Frente de Todos unity. The panel evaluates different alternatives, while knowing full well that the heads of the lists will be defined in a few days by another new meeting between Alberto and Cristina – this one will be a meeting without witnesses.