December 9, 2013
‘Relationship with CFK is almost non-existent’
Santa Fe Governor Antonio Bonfatti took office in December 2011, pushed into office by his predecessor, Hermes Binner, who came in second in the 2011 presidential elections. The medical doctor was one of the founders of the Popular Socialist Party in 1972, which went on to become the least anti-Peronist Socialist faction in the country. He has been involved in the province’s political world since the return of democracy in 1983, when he became mayor of the tiny town of Las Parejas.
Governor Antonio Bonfatti talked to the Herald about current affairs, politics, drug trafficking and decriminalization of drugs.
How would you rate the past two years of your administration leading the province of Santa Fe?
The balance is positive because we have an unprecedented strategic plan until 2030, designed as part of 70 assemblies in which more than 30,000 people participated. The provincial government encourages a permanent dialogue with each and every sector. Although we are the minority party in both chambers of the provincial Legislature, measures are approved because we have an excellent relationship with legislators. We all understand that the problems of the people prevail over the conflicts between the parties.
You have long been a proponent of talking and discussions to solve problems. But can all disagreements between political parties really be solved by talking?
There is no other way to solve an issue than to sit down and try to reach an agreement. There are two conditions for talks to succeed: we must learn to listen to one another and we should know that we will not get 100 percent of what we want. Of course, the decision of the government must prevail in a case in which corporate or individual interests challenge collective interests.
The country suffered a bad experience when numerous centre-left and centre-right parties joined together for an election under the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education label. In Santa Fe the Civic and Social Progressive Front (FPCyS) has been operating for years. Why should voters trust that this type of alliances can succeed on the national stage?
They succeed if it has a clear structure in which nobody tries to gain the upper hand. The Alliance didn’t work because it was a mix of parties that simply wanted to prevent former president Carlos Menem from winning re-election. In Santa Fe, the Progressive Front was formed 20 years ago. We built it with a clear plan that we still support. For these projects to succeed, there must be a cultural shift because parties used to be stronger and people felt that they were represented by them. These days, most don’t feel political parties represent them.
Aren’t current alliances aimed at preventing the ruling Victory Front (FpV) from holding on to power?
No, that isn’t our goal. In the last presidential elections, when the Radicals (UCR) — with whom we wanted to build an alliance — joined forces with Francisco de Narváez, we took a step back. We believe in principles and we don’t support alliances that are only aimed at beating others.
What do you think about alliances elsewhere across the country which include other parties, such as UNEN in Buenos Aires City?
We look forward to see similar kinds of alliances as we have in Santa Fe across the country.
Who else can join the Broad Progressive Front?
Anyone who shares this government’s ideals is welcome.
With whom you won’t become allies?
I don’t share ideals with Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri nor lawmaker Francisco de Narváez.
Do you think that a front formed by numerous parties could have pushed human rights policies, passed the marriage-equality law and built relationships with other Latin American countries?
There are some issues we all agree on. We should understand that building a front is not easy and includes giving up lots of things. Look at Chile, with agreements and disagreements and Uruguay’s Broad Front. We need much more democracy within the fronts.
Why do you think that the Kirchnerite administration causes such dissatisfaction in traditionally conservative and right-wing circles?
Due to the way in which it imposes its ideals. Nobody can think that he or she holds the truth. This is a huge mistake of Kirchnerites. During the Budget debate in Congress, for example, there isn’t a chance to propose a single amendment. If the government pushes a bill, no one can add a single point that could have broad support. Working this way creates a dynamic of friend-or-enemy, which isn’t right for a country as a whole.
Is there dialogue between the Santa Fe province administration and the national government?
How is your relationship with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner?
It is almost non-existent. We have never been invited to talks with the president, although we have requested lots of meetings. I don’t spend any more time on that now.
What do you think about the Broadcast Media Law?
We should wait for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling on whether the three contested articles are constitutional.
What do you think of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration?
The big mistake she is making is failing to participate in dialogue. We agree with lots of her views in theory. We agreed with the changes in the Supreme Court and the foreign relations policies at the beginning of former president Néstor Kirchner’s administration, for example. We agreed with the AFJP, YPF and Aerolíneas Argentinas nationalizations, as we agreed with marriage equality, the Broadcast and Media Law — but we don’t like the way in which these policies are applied. Sometimes the true value of a proposal that is correct in substance is destroyed by trying to impose the ideas on others.
Is the province becoming a haven for drug trafficking?
The province is seeing the same thing that is going on across the world. All the countries have problems with drugs because people use them. As long as there are people who buy drugs, there will be trafficking. This will continue until the national government, the provinces and cities come together to solve the problems. We had positive results when the courts, the government and police work together. In Santa Fe, we have broken up the big gangs.
What do you think about the accusations by public prosecutor Juan Murray against Margarita Zabalza, an authority at the provincial Complex Crimes secretariat?
Murray should be investigating, instead of accusing. I think his words have an openly political connotation. I don’t care what he says.
Is Santa Fe prepared to take over responsibility for certain trafficking crimes as other provinces have done?
I don’t think it’s time for that. If we remove any part of the Narcotics Law out of federal jurisdiction, we will be adding a very important problem. There is no clear line differentiating big cases from small ones, which means we would end up pursuing consumers instead of drug traffickers.
What do you think about the decriminalization of marijuana?
The issue deserves a broad debate. Uruguay President José Mujica is very brave with what he is doing. Chile’s former president Ricardo Lagos recently told me we should be revising everything we have done in Latin America regarding drug matters. I am not in favour of consuming drugs, but I do favour taking a mature look at the issue.
Are you in favour of decriminalization?
It doesn’t matter what the governor believes, let’s give debate a chance.
And as a doctor?
We should analyze the limits. It is the same debate as in the US in the 1930s with alcohol. Young people should know that drugs destroy the brain, but so does alcohol as well...
Are we ready for the discussion?
Let’s start it, otherwise we won’t be ready.
Now, let’s move on to some quick-fire questions. Do you prefer to read Clarín or Página/12?
None of the extremes.
Would you rather watch cable news channel TN or public television (Canal 7)?
None of the extremes.
Do you trust Jorge Rial or Jorge Lanata?
None of the extremes.
In the Santa Fe congressional race, do you prefer Miguel Del Sel (PRO) or Jorge Obeid (Victory Front)?
I prefer those who have a political background.
Who is your role model from the political world?
Guillermo Estévez Boero.
Estévez Boero or Santa Fe Former Governor and national Social and Progressive Front Deputy candidate Hermes Binner?
Estevez Boero because he was the founder of the Popular Socialist Party and he always motivated us with new ideas.