June 18, 2013
What’s all this about a ‘Peronist pontiff?’
By Francisco Aldaya
The newly-elected Argentine Pope Francis was defined in several national media outlets as a subscriber to the Peronist movement and a friend of the trade union movement, which begs the question of what that actually implies.
In fact, over the last three decades, a common saying has arisen that non-Peronist presidential candidates stand little chance of electoral success, as they lack the vote-winning populist element that is one of the few core components of Peronism as a whole, in both left and right factions.
Clarín columnist Ricardo Roa titled his piece: “Argentine miracle: A Peronist on Saint Peter’s throne.” His comment that “Kirchnerism could not hide its frustration over the election of someone it always treated as an enemy” perfectly illustrates the vagueness of the Peronist label, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner once affirmed in a speech: “I hate the word Justicialism, I am a Peronist.”
Despite both allegedly being Peronists, Roa says the Fernández de Kirchner effectively cut off relations with Bergoglio, refusing to meet with him. Moreover they “promoted causes against him over alleged complicity with the (last) military dictatorship,” but, two human rights activists, Nobel Prize Winning Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Graciela Fernández Meijide, yesterday defended the new pope by affirming he had “no connection with the dictatorship.”
Some of his strongest criticism toward the current administration came in 2011, when he questioned the “destruction of dignified labour and the lack of future” that is seen in a “contemporary society” where “material and moral misery are commonplace.”
La Nación’s Carlos Pagni also assured Pope Francis was “molded in the Peronist” vein and holds the “union movement in very high regard.” Pagni commented on the reaction to the news mid-session in the Lower House, saying a “grimace was seen on Kirchnerite faces, while the opposition smiled,” and that one young Kirchnerite joked: “They appointed a Pope for (Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio) Macri.” To the latter point, Justicialist Deputy Felipe Solá replied: “Don’t be silly, say he is ours, he is a Peronist.”
Roa affirmed that Lower House Speaker Julián Domínguez refused to interrupt the session to celebrate the historic news, and criticized the President for her bureaucratic and cold congratulations and for “seemingly giving instructions (to Francisco) on how to carry out his Pontificate” during a speech at Tecnópolis. However, in what appeared a potential shift for the better in relations with Pope
Francis, the Kirchnerite Buenos Aires province Lieutenant Governor, Gabriel Mariotto, affirmed Bergoglio was of a “Peronist conception,” and the despite periods of tension, he had seen the new pontiff as “close to many of our policies.” Mariotto made the comments last night during the pro-government TV show 6,7,8.
Nonetheless, Pagni meanwhile maintains Bergoglio was always “open to meeting with politicians” of diverse ideologies if they approached him, and the Peronist connection remains only a rumour.
CGT umbrella union grouping leader was quoted in Clarín as saying “It was always commented that he was a Peronist for his traits: kind, simple, humble, I am sure he is.”
Other than with Bergoglio, the President has well-known conflicts with “Peronists” including Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, demonstrating how disharmonious the movement has become.
Bergoglio was also portrayed as an archbishop who had not been afraid to confront different administrations, from Carlos Menem’s to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, attributing the 2001 financial crisis to the “crudest liberalism... without rules or controls.” In 2001 he also called for a Central World Bank based on the “spiritual and ethical” to replace the IMF, as the former had “lost its capacity to guarantee global financial stability.” Saints’ supporter The sheer pride and disbelief that gripped Argentina yesterday was manifest throughout the press, which highlighted Bergoglio as a typical native of this land, printing pictures of him sipping mate, and proudly holding the flag of his beloved San Lorenzo soccer club.
The historic Pope Francis was predominantly described as a humble, kind and simple Jesuit who accompanied victims of the Once station railway tragedy, worked in slums and used public transport, and avoiding any luxury he was offered. Most journalists also expressed hope that he will be able to help bring peace to a convulsed world, and more immediately, the Catholic Church itself.