Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta launched a fierce attack on President Alberto Fernández on Thursday as the opposition leader criticised the unilateral introduction of new restrictions to tackle the Covid-19 second wave.
Lashing out at the lack of consultation from the national government over decisions to extend the hours of a nighttime curfew and close schools in the Buenos Aires metropolitan Area (AMBA), Rodríguez Larreta underlined that he had not been consulted prior to yesterday's presidential announcement and said he would seek an urgent meeting with the Peronist head of state.
Accusing Fernández of "breaking" their previous way of working, the mayor confirmed he would file an urgent injunction before the Supreme Court over the decision to close schools. He vowed to do everything possible to ensure children were in schools on Monday morning.
“Yesterday the national government decided to break with the mechanism of dialogue and consensus that we have sustained for more than a year,” said the Juntos por el Cambio leader, referring to previous lockdown measures introduced last year.
“I want to be very clear: we were not consulted about any of the measures that were taken,” he added sharply.
Describing the decision to introduce measures unilaterally as “inexplicable,” the City mayor said he was baffled as to why Fernández had taken the decision, given that they have held regular meetings over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A pandemic like this does not admit the possibility that a president does not coordinate their actions with the head of a government or governor,” he declared.
“We believe in dialogue, good faith, cooperation and joint planning. They can always count on me and my team for this,” he said, adding the lines of communication with City Hall would remain open nevertheless.
"We totally reject the involvement of the military and federal forces on the streets if this is not properly coordinated and in line with existing laws, as we always have done. The City is as autonomous as the rest of the provinces. And we're always going to defend her," fired the mayor.
Rodríguez Larreta said he had agreed with the national government just six days ago what measures to take, but that the president had ripped up that guide within a week.
“At this point in the pandemic, we all know that the measures must be evaluated for at least 10 days, which is the period of evolution of the contagion,” he said. “Not even a week has passed and they want to throw away the plans that we put together.”
In a nationwide address Wednesday evening, Fernández said that he was extending the hours of an existing nighttime curfew, further restricting business hours and ordering the closure of schools in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area until the end of April.
The president’s announcement was met with fierce criticism from the opposition and a cacerolazo pot-banging protest in and around Buenos Aires. Much of the anger focused on the decision to suspend face-to face classes at schools, though rival politicians also criticised the economic impact of the restrictions.
Rodríguez Larreta said the new restrictions were “not the best way to take care of health,” but he admitted his government was “concerned about the current situation.”
He called for the advancement of the government’s vaccination programme, which needed to be “rapid and transparent” and “without privileges.”
Returning to the theme of shuttered classes, the City mayor said that he “totally disagreed” with the decision to close schools for two weeks. Arguing that some children were at risk of being left behind by a lack of learning, he said the social impact of such measures were enormous.
“More than 70 percent of children are beginning to manifest symptoms of loneliness, anxiety and depression, as shown by various studies carried out by UNICEF, the INECO Foundation and the organisations of the City,” said Rodríguez Larreta.
“There is no health reason that justifies, at this time, suspending face-to-face classes for two weeks. In a measurement we carried out between March 17 and April 12, we confirmed it: less than one percent of all people who attend schools tested positive,” he said.
“We have, before Monday, three days to have the dialogue that we have not had. For this reason, I propose to the president that we meet this afternoon to discuss, with evidence and with recommendations from experts, how to make sure that the children are in the classrooms on Monday,” he said.
The opposition leader confirmed he would file an injunction before the Supreme Court asking for urgent treatment, saying his government would do “everything in our power to guarantee face-to-face classes” take place on Monday.
“We cannot mortgage the future of the boys,” he declared.