One of the first decisions taken by the government after the attempted assassination of the Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was to decree a public holiday, something which went down badly with the opposition but which Peronism read as a smart move. Without that public holiday and the summons to march on the Plaza de Mayo, Cristina’s followers would have repeated their dangerous rally in Recoleta, something which the official measure helped to defuse. At the same time the public holiday brought order to the Peronist movement, which came out calling for peace and democracy but also for CFK herself. Furthermore, the Merlo rally scheduled for September 3 was suspended, as was the CGT general strike announced on television by Sergio Palazzo of the bank clerks’ union and Pablo Moyano of the teamsters. After the assassination attempt, everything else could wait.
Before the Bersa which failed to fire, the ‘Vialidad’ highway corruption trial mounted by Prosecutor Diego Luciani had already forced Frente de Todos to line up behind their now undisputed chief. Fernando Sabbag Montiel did nothing more than intensify that trend. If the trial balloon of “CFK 2023” was already flying high in recent weeks, the effect has been multiplied.
Both Cristina and her lawmaker son Máximo will be up for election next year. Máximo Kirchner, whose term ends on December 10 next year, sits for Buenos Aires Province whose Justicialist Party branch he chairs, although he has lived most of his life in Santa Cruz Province with his residence in the Federal Capital. His mother could play it safe by heading a legislative ticket in Buenos Aires Province and attracting votes for the re-election of allied Governor Axel Kicillof but she could also go for the big one - running again for the Presidency, above all if Mauricio Macri emerges as her possible rival on the other side. It would be the Superclásico of the grieta chasm.
But what would a CFK campaign be like in the new context of the extreme security measures surrounding her after the assassination attempt? It’s hard to imagine, even for those closest to their boss, who fear for her spontaneous habit of mingling with the militants, something not to be recommended after what happened. Chasing votes surrounded by bodyguards is the road which remains open, giving rise to atypical images.
One of the main inconveniences facing a possible Cristina candidacy is her high negative image in the various opinion polls that circulate among businessmen and also in the government, figures which the assassination attempt has not modified as against what might be expected. There has not been any “solidarity effect” causing the vice-president’s popularity to rise (or at least none has been registered by the opinion polls).
The Trespuntozero consultancy firm, headed by Shila Vilker, ran a survey on post-attack perceptions and its conclusions showed public opinion staying in the grip of the grieta. One question posed: “After the attack, is your image of Cristina equally good, equally bad, better or worse?” It was “equally good” for 19.7 percent, “equally bad” for 16.9 percent, “better” for 11.2 percent and “worse” for 45.3 percent with 6.9 percent “don’t knows.” Cristina and her entourage were expecting more empathy.
Taking refuge among her team of bodyguards with her security under review and weekend getaways far removed from the public gaze, CFK is beginning a new life. What is going through our mind after that black Thursday night of September 1? Does it motivate her for what is to come or, on the contrary, does it pose question-marks as to her links with the citizenry?
One thing’s for sure – if all else fails, if the bodyguards again do not arrive in time while the threats keep stalking her, the great leader believes that she has magical, or rather divine protection – the rosary which Pope Francis gave her in 2013 and which she has been flourishing since her scare. Being a religious person, she is convinced that this protective little chain of Jorge Bergoglio helped her in the most dangerous moment of her life. A question of faith.