Two senators from Tucumán province have formally announced they will break off from the Justicialist Party (PJ) caucus, led by Miguel Ángel Pichetto, to join an "inter-bloc" group with the Victory Front (FpV) led by Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Senators José Alperovich and Beatriz Mirkin confirmed their decision in a letter to Pichetto today.
The move will have implications for the government's 2019 Budget proposal and the Cambiemos (Let's Change) coalition, with Pichetto's caucus now losing its majority in the upper house, just hours before Wednesday's crucial vote. The PJ bloc, led by Pichetto, plays a key part in a number of initiatives the government wants to clear Congress.
"The federal bloc does not represent me, I do not feel ideologically content in that bloc, we are going to put together an inter-bloc with Cristina [Fernández de] Kirchner in the Senate," said Alperovich in a radio interview with the Kirchnerite-friendly El Destape website.
"In Tucumán, we are going to work hard with Cristina and we want a united Peronism," said Alperovich.
"If we want to move the country forward, Peronism has to be united, and Cristina must be there because otherwise they are functional for Macri," he added.
The split is the first move in what seems to be a larger fracture coming as a result of the budget proposal. Last week, Formosa province Senator José Mayans clashed with Pichetto during a debate over the Budget bill in a meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee.
Speaking today, Pichetto played down the departure of the lawmakers, calling it "predictable" and saying it was linked to "reasons of a political nature that occur in Tucumán." For the PJ leader, the decision to break off "has more to do with politics than with parliamentary life," he told reporters.
"I respect the decision that each senator makes and I understand the reasons, of a political nature," he said in a statement.