The street escalation of Kirchnerism cracks the opposition in Argentina

The head of the Government of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, gives a press conference surrounded by leaders of the opposition coalition Together for Change, on August 27, 2022. GCBA

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta is the head of Government of the city of Buenos Aires. He is also one of the main cards of the opposition for the presidential elections of October 2023. It was he who ordered the placing of police fences over the weekend around the house of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The vice president’s supporters had been vigil for five days at the door of her apartment, located in Recoleta, the most expensive neighborhood in the capital —and the most anti-Peronist. The permanent mobilization was a repudiation of the 12 years in prison for alleged corruption that a federal prosecutor had requested against the head of the movement. The demands of the neighbors to put order in the street became unbearable for the mayor. The effect of the billboards was predictable: the Kirchnerist militancy, which was scheduled to march through the city squares on Saturday, diverted its path and defied the siege of “the Larreta police.”

The protesters tore down the fences and the police responded with gas. Given the overflow, a line of dialogue was opened between the national government and the authorities of the capital. On Saturday night, Kirchner took a microphone and told the crowd that the opposition wanted to put an end to Peronism and popular mobilization. But he also asked his people to return home after “a long day.” The city police removed the fences and agreed to keep their distance, not leaving the neighborhood.

The escalation of violence that took place at the door of Kirchner’s house monopolizes today all the public debate in Argentina. Kirchner had once and for all managed to regain political prominence, unite Peronism behind his figure and encourage a possible candidacy in 2023. It was a studied move, which at the same time exposed the main opposition candidate to succeed President Alberto Fernández like no one else.

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta paid a cost to put up the fences, but also to remove them. And another cost for the repression, which even reached the son of the vice president, deputy Máximo Kirchner. The internal fights in Together for Change emerged with all possible force between the moderate sectors, represented by the mayor, and the “halcones”, where former President Mauricio Macri and his former Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, militate. On Saturday, the mayor gave a press conference surrounded by the main leaders of the opposition coalition. “The vice president wants the solution to her problems with the Argentine justice system to be settled in the streets, pitting some Argentines against each other. We will not allow it,” he said. He wanted to convey firmness, but Bullrich wasn’t there to hear him.

VIOLENCE IS THE LIMIT. The City Police acted firmly, with determination and with professionalism.

– Horacio Rodríguez Larreta (@horaciorlarreta) August 28, 2022

Rodríguez Larreta considers himself a man of consensus and a great planner. The decision to put up fences came on Friday, when “the installation of a traveling fair was announced for an indefinite period with tents, chemical toilets, grills and other activities that could not be allowed,” explains a source from the environment closest to him. “That’s why it was decided to fence the area, to put a stop to the situation,” he adds, “until the violent people who showed up in the area knocked down the fences.”

The agreement with the national government meant that the demonstrations will not include outdoor barbecues, drums or fireworks. And that the cuts in traffic would be limited to the moments of departure and arrival of Kirchner at his house. On Sunday, however, the problems continued. The riot police were installed near the place to guarantee circulation and this Monday the tension was evident. In this coming and going, the hawks of Together for Change charged against Horacio Rodríguez Larreta. “We cannot continue to naturalize what is wrong, nor can we continue to hand over the country to these people. [los kirchneristas]. The obligation of a ruler is to guarantee order and the rule of law,” wrote Patricia Bullrich, a veteran politician who has gone through Peronism, radicalism and is now the most right-wing voice of macrismo. Later, during an interview with the TN news channel, Bullrich said that when she was security minister she never had a fence thrown at her. “Once you put up the fences, you have to maintain them,” she said. Although she never named him, the recipient of the message was the mayor of Buenos Aires.

Rodríguez Larreta feels comfortable in the center of the political spectrum. But he considers that the internal coalition pushes him to the right. The demonstrations in favor of Kirchner accelerated the disputes and forced the mayor to take the initiative. From his environment they assure that “Kirchnerism put Horacio Rodríguez Larreta in the center of the scene and this strengthens him.” In any case, the presidential elections are 14 months away and candidates will soon have to be decided. The power struggles are just beginning.

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