December 11, 2013
Election campaigns tend to bring out the violent side of politics and this year seems no exception. The stones and eggs hurled at Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa during his weekend motorcade in La Matanza are the most obvious target for criticism and there can also be no doubt that the showdown between Massa and Kirchnerism in Buenos Aires province has become the chief, indeed almost exclusive focus for most pundits (out of all proportion to the 27.5 percent of Lower House seats at stake in that province in next month’s midterm elections) but nor should we ignore the increasingly crass electioneering in this city. To criticize the violent attack on the Massa campaign is to state the obvious but it still needs to be said, although not repeated to saturation point — if this ugly incident was repudiated by the ultra-Kirchnerite La Matanza Mayor Fernando Espinoza, what can we add? There was no excuse, not even the argument that Massa somehow provoked this attack (which definitely benefits his campaign) by straying into “enemy territory.” This notion of a territorial imperative whereby entry into a faction’s political turf is considered disrespect should be rejected as a feudal anachronism with no place in a modern democracy where anybody should be able to campaign anywhere.
City Mayor Mauricio Macri is somewhat subtler in his election strategy but not much. The inauguration of public works “improving people’s lives” was already incessant before the August 11 primaries but has now become almost daily with the extension of the “A” subway line due at the end of this week. Macri thus falls into the same unethical and indeed illegal deployment of feelgood public works announcements during a campaign which he often accuses President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of abusing. The list of such strategically timed works is much longer than the new subway stations (where, incidentally, a total of around half a dozen mostly built by previous administrations is way behind his election promises of an annual 11 kilometres of subway line made six years ago). In short, the citizenry face these days countless presumably yellow ribbons to be cut on behalf of the candidates from Macri’s PRO centre-right party. And all this coming from a City Hall which notoriously underspends its budgets in such key areas as education and health while overspending on a propaganda machine broadcasting these public works which is just as crass as its rival Kirchnerite counterpart.
“We don’t need another hero” was a popular song nearly 30 years ago but so far this election campaign has yet to produce one.