Being loyal to Alberto Fernández is expensive. Defending the president, siding with him in internal coalition affairs, or taking his wing has proven to be a lousy business for all those who tried it. Now, productive development minister Matías Kulfas has joined the long list of those who believed in the president and now regret it.
This can be attested to by another former minister, from the Albertista camp, who two months ago visited Fernández at the Quinta de Olivos. It was the first time they had spoken or seen each other since the president had sacked him. It had been a similar case to that of Kulfas: at a time when the chips were down, the president had handed him over to the wild beasts. At the time, almost the entire Cabinet – not just the ousted ones – had felt that the way the resignation had been handled had been imprudent. That Alberto had behaved as if he didn't care about the minister or his long career, as if he cared about nothing but himself and his dreams of re-election. It was a feeling that has echoed again in recent days.
From that meeting, a lunch that lasted several hours, the former official came away with one thought. "It is impressive. Alberto told me that the decision had cost him a lot, that it had not been easy and that blah blah blah, but he never asked for forgiveness or apologised. Not once," he said later, in a portrait of presidential psychology that speaks for itself.
This is a reality to which all those who suffered the same fate subscribe. Marcela Losardo, former justice minister, arrived as Alberto's historic partner from the world of law but, in the face of Kirchnerite attacks, never received the support she had expected from her close friend. Nicolás Trotta, once education minister, suffered time and again public disavowals from the president, such as when the official came out to advise against the closure of classrooms due to a second wave of Covid-19 infections and the next day Fernández announced the opposite measure. The official, like Kulfas, was also surprised when the president sent him packing.
A book could be written about the other cases. Ginés González García, the health minister expelled over the so-called ‘VIP vaccination’ scandal, asked Alberto to let him hold a press conference to give his version of events. In a brief Whatsapp message sent to him by the then-Cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero, Fernández denied the request. Felipe Solá could talk for a long time about what he understands to be the president's lack of codes. He was sacked by telephone, via Cafiero, when he was in Mexico, minutes away from presiding over a CELAC summit in his capacity as Foreign Minister. On top of that, the person who notified him of the decision was the one who was going to replace him. "He didn't even have the guts to tell me", is a phrase often repeated by the former governor of Buenos Aires.
These are just a few cases, many of which are aggravated by Alberto's obvious double standards: he did not fire the Kirchnerite officials who resigned simultaneously after the PASO; he did not fire Luana Volnovich, the head of PAMI who went to the Caribbean with her boyfriend (the agency’s second-in-command); he did not fire Fernanda Vallejos, the ultra-K deputy who called him a squatter and a whippersnapper; he did not even send a complaint.
But he got rid of Kulfas with a hurtful tweet in which he complains about "speaking off-the-record to the detriment of the other", a practice that the president has never stopped doing.
For all these reasons, no member of the Cabinet today dares to put their hands in the fire for Alberto: experience proves that it all goes wrong shortly afterwards. Among the team, everyone is worried about Martín Guzmán: if history repeats itself, he will be the next one the president will let go of. "Alberto has the loyalty of a mosquito," is a phrase often repeated by Guillermo Moreno, former Secretary of Commerce, who dealt with him a lot during the Kirchnerite governments.
A few remain in the trenches – his inner circle in Olivos, and ministers like Cafiero and Aníbal Fernández – but the outcome of this story seems clear.