December 13, 2013
Three contenders take the plungeThursday, October 10, 2013
Parties turn debate into a big reunion for candidates
There was more to last night’s debate featuring the top three candidates running for a seat to represent Buenos Aires City in the Lower House of Congress than could be caught by the camera lenses.
Rabbi Sergio Bergman, who leads the list for City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s PRO party, arrived at the TN studios in a black van and was immedately greeted by a group of PRO politicians. Laura Alonso shadowed him all over the studio alongside Environment and Public Space Minister Diego Santilli.
Former deputy mayor and head senatorial candidate for the PRO Gabriela Michetti arrived later, after all the candidates had already taken their places on stage. She went to hug Bergman, who was talking to Macri’s Cabinet chief, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
Victory Front (FpV) Lawmaker Juan Cabandié walked through the studio with his two young advisers. Minutes before the public was allowed to enter the studio, former Kirchnerite foreign minister Jorge Taiana, who heads the FpV ticket for the City Legislature, showed up as well as Senator Daniel Filmus.
Congressman Fernando “Pino” Solanas entered the studio before his ally Elisa Carrió. First, he shook hands with the hosts, Marcelo Bonelli and Edgardo Alfano. Then he went up the stairs and greeted the journalists covering the debate.
“How is Lilita doing?” one asked.
“Great. She is ready. We sent her to the gym to prepare,” Solanas replied jokingly.
Ready, set ... debate
Entering as if she were a Hollywood star, Carrió was wearing a purple coat over a dress. The Kirchnerites could not avoid laughing when one of the TV hosts explained that she would be taking the “seat on the right,” as if it was a metaphor for her position along the political spectrum. Cabandié sat to the left and Bergman took the middle.
“Didn’t you have a smaller chair?” whined Carrió before the debate started. She fell silent as her opponents conversed, but she was soon given the chance to participate in the discussion, her voice becoming increasingly loud.
Some of her rebuttals were celebrated by a cheering crowd headed by “Pino” Solanas, Gustavo Vera and Martín Lousteau.
Bergman avoided raising his voice, but his comments sounded as if they came straight from a campaign spot. He didn’t seem to be truly engaging in the debate. While Carrió and Cabandié exchanged accusations, the PRO candidate seemingly could not avoid using the camera as a mirror to check out his reflection.
A competition of signs
Cabandié’s first words were timid, he even stammered at times, but he quickly improved. In the second part of the debate, he seemed more confident. He started pulling out charts to argue that Macri was not investing enough in education, public health and to prove that child mortality was increasing in Buenos Aires City.
“Well, I’ll have to stand up,” Bergman said, pulling out an enormous chart to refute Cabandié allegations. Carrió, who did not bring charts, soon after redirected the discussion to the “rubbish issue.”
“I’ll say something to Santilli. I cannot stand the amount of trash in Buenos Aires City,” Carrió complained.
Santilli laughed after being targeted by the firebrand Carrió, who went further: “If you put an end to this problem, I’ll cast my vote for you.”
When the segment ended, Santilli ran after Carrió and the two seemed to exchange words on the issue. Carrió came back to the studio speaking loudly. Macri’s minister reappeared later.
The Clarín Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate, took centre-stage in yesterday’s debate.
“I know you defend monopolies, but do not monopolize the discussion,” Cabandié told Carrió, who could not keep silent and responded: “You, Kirchnerites, were the ones who passed a law to benefit Clarín Group,” Carrió answered back while her face did not hide her true feelings.
“Sometimes you behave like Joan of Arc and then you defend monopolistic powers,” Cabandié continued.
“Well, in fact, I can do both things. Do you know Joan of Arc’s story?” Carrió asked Cabandié.
“Let’s move forward, Cabandié,” Bonelli interrupted as the FpV candidate pulled out another poster. This time the picture showed the police brutality at the psychiatric hospital José Borda.
The debate ended up with Carrió and Cabandié in a heated discussion over the irregular adoption of Marcela and Felipe Noble Herra, the children of Clarín owner Ernestina Herrera de Noble. Bergman remained silent but ended with a far-right cliché: “I want the whole truth.”
His words were useful enough, they put an end to the discussion, which seemingly seemed to embarass Bonelli and Alfano who appeared ready to move on.