Ten days ago, when she was packing her bags ahead of a few days off in Chile with her family, María Eugenia Vidal started to think about the decision. Up until then, she had chosen not to make her vote public. Intimately she already knew but had chosen not to reveal it since she believed it could damage the unity she had been encouraging since she gave up her presidential hopes.
For months Vidal always said that, even though she was remaining “neutral.” she did not rule out, near the PASO primaries informing people about her vote. Therefore, it was only natural for Vidal’s supporters for her to end up backing Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
When she came back from her trip, on Monday evening she went to dinner on the fourth-floor flat rented by Rodríguez Larreta on Avenida Libertador. There, together with other collaborators, she confirmed that she had decided to make her vote for him public.
She stressed that it was a key issue and she was aware of the repercussions it could have. But it was also her deepest conviction: she and Rodríguez Larreta are friends and they have known each other for 27 years, dating back to when she was an intern at the ANSES social security agency. “I won’t speculate. This is my conviction,” she told the mayor over dinner.
However, the choice was absolutely personal. Although she did have the support of many key figures from her circle: from Emmanuel Ferrario, the vice-president of the City of Buenos Aires Legislature who tweeted his support, to Federico Salvai, his former chief of cabinet at the Buenos Aires province government, to Milagros Maylin, who dedicated an affectionate Instagram post with an anecdote dating back to their years together managing La Matanza.
Despite that, there is a key piece of information: many of Vidal’s camp are running on Patricia Bullrich and Néstor Grindetti tickets in Buenos Aires Province. That is why, over the last 48 hours she spent nearly the whole time telling her collaborators and advisors about her decision.
Vidal met with almost unanimous support. Some even were moved. Those who know her well, such as Santiago López Medrano, a Bullrich-aligned mayoral hopeful in San Martín and former Social Development minister in Buenos Aires Province, were not surprised.
One of the first people she shared her decision with was Cristian Ritondo, chief of the PRO deputies’ bloc, and the head of the Bullrich ticket in Buenos Aires Province. The dialogue was tense but it ended well. Even Ritondo had not talked of any “disappointment,” as stated on Wednesday.
Talking to Patricia
Vidal also told Bullrich on Wednesday, who thanked her for telling her before she made it public. During their last meeting, the deputy had already anticipated that if she leaned towards either of them she would let her know.
The harsh criticism by the head of the Bullrich campaign, Juan Pablo Arenaza, who branded her as the “employee of the month” had not yet taken place, or the unrest from Hernán Lombardi. Arenaza surprised her most: he had been the link between her and Bullrich over the last few years.
Within that framework, since late last year, the president of the PRO bloc wanted to close an agreement with Bullrich which made him a candidate for governor and Vidal a candidate for City of Buenos Aires mayor. She always said no.
Yet that is not all: both Larreta and Bullrich offered all kinds of spots in their tickets and potential administrations. The answer was always “no”.
Even though she knew that Mauricio Macri would have preferred her to stay neutral or, at any rate, be on Bullrich’s side, she decided to move forward. “Mauricio and Horacio have been in PRO since we started”, she was heard saying lately.
In this context, on Wednesday Vidal made her support public with a letter-Twitter thread she wrote by hand. There she combined political and personal arguments, such as the years they have been friends and how well she knows the mayor.
Together they went to Río Gallegos to back the PRO’s governor hopeful, journalist Mario Markic, who makes his electoral debut and was convinced by Vidal to join them.
Now Larreta’s supporters hope that, without neutrality on her back, Vidal can join the presidential hopeful in the last stretch of his campaign which will take him to Córdoba, Santa Fe, Mendoza and Entre Ríos, in a final raid of the last ten days. They even expect her to be present at the closing rally in La Plata together with Diego Santilli and local PRO mayor, Julio Garro.
In Olazábal’s bunker, where a meter with blue numbers has already been installed, they assessed that after the support of Facundo Manes and Rodrigo de Loredo, two major Radicals, adding Vidal may now be key. And they attributed “nervousness” to Bullrich supporters due to such moves during the final sprint of the campaign.