Weekly Report - 01 September 2022 (WR-22-35)

ARGENTINA: Rodríguez Larreta goes head-to head with Cristina

This shifted the political focus to the aristocratic and conservative Barrio Norte, and specifically to the intersection of Juncal and Uruguay streets, where the vice-president has her city pied-à-terre, a fifth-floor corner flat with large windows. To the horror of the neighbours, every day since the prosecutor made his call for prison time, supporters of Fernández and the populist Partido Justicialista (PJ, Peronists) have rallied outside the building entrance, chanting their support. She has emerged on occasion to flash the Peronist V-sign for victory and to thank her supporters.

On 27 August Buenos Aires city police, who report to the mayor, Rodríguez Larreta, a prominent member of the centre-right Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) opposition coalition, installed crowd control barriers. Later in the day the vice-president’s supporters breached and knocked over the barriers: there were scuffles and the police used tear gas and water cannons in order to disperse the crowd.

The battle of Juncal and Uruguay has its own version of ‘lawfare’. A federal judge has ruled that the city police must pull back from the vice-president’s home and leave security to be handled by her federal police bodyguard. Rodríguez Larreta angrily retorted that the vice president should stop inciting violence.

Rodríguez Larreta added that city lawyers would challenge the court order. “A judge who is publicly aligned with Kirchnerismo [the vice-president’s brand of populist nationalism], and who has no jurisdiction, is trying in a confused ruling, to order us to leave the streets. We are being ordered to stop providing security in the city,” the indignant mayor said. He added that Fernández should stop “pouring fuel on the fire” with partisan comments, and focus instead on inflation, crime, unemployment, and the crisis in the education system.

The tension around the vice-president’s home is having important political ramifications. The ruling left-of-centre Frente de Todos (FdT) coalition is broadly divided into three groups: the vice-president’s radical Kirchneristas, and two, more moderate groups, the Albertistas who are loyal to President Alberto Fernández, and those who are members of the Frente Renovador (FR) led by the economy minister Sergio Massa. Vice-President Fernández has placed herself in the political centre stage, eclipsing the other two groups. The president, who has disagreed with the Kirchneristas on many issues, has been reduced to meekly supporting his vice president’s claims that she is a victim of rigged courts. Massa, who has been promising an epic battle as ‘super minister’ to bring the economic crisis under control finds himself temporarily at least, out of the limelight.

The Kirchneristas, who have no clear policy of their own on how to deal with the economic crisis, have nevertheless positioned themselves as potential victors in presidential primaries due in less than a year’s time, in August 2023. There are persistent rumours that Fernández may herself seek a third presidential term (which, if she wins, would handily extend her immunity from prosecution) or use her influence to endorse a close associate for the job (possibly even her son, Máximo Kirchner).

There is also a degree of manoeuvring within the JxC coalition. Rodríguez Larreta, a moderate who gets on wel

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