December 7, 2013
PRO advocates three impeachments
Ahead of Sunday’s midterms, head PRO candidate Sergio Bergman talks to the Herald
Sergio Bergman, the leading congressional candidate for the PRO in Buenos Aires City, welcomed the Herald to the synagogue on Libertad and Avenida Córdoba before last Friday’s service to discuss his team’s campaign and electoral prospects ahead of Sunday’s vote. Currently a City legislator, the poll-leading Bergman, who is also a rabbi, is sincere about his party’s electoral opportunism, but hopes such practices will fade with time and is optimistic about Mayor Mauricio Macri’s presidential prospects.
What would be the first bill you would take to Congress?
First I want Congress to work properly.
Civic participation is currently a bi-annual spasm of electoral marketing in which each person chooses the least worst alternative. Do citizens know that since 2011, there has been an automatic majority in both chambers, which do not function unless the president sends something to a vote? The first thing that has to be done is to change the minorities and majorities to a functional proportion. If we can reactivate things, I would seek to contribute to the PRO’s established agenda: Impeachment for the vice-president and foreign and justice ministers, central bank reform, repeal of the illegitimate judicial reform laws, the issue of export tariffs for the farming sector, the transfer of funds that were granted to Buenos Aires City.
Would you say you’d need to revert the perceived flaws or errors of Kirchnerism before establishing yourselves?
I would say the priority is placing a limit on authoritarianism and the abolition of the independence between different branches of government , and removing limits to civil liberty. These things are urgent, the rest can wait.
Are you confident you can defeat Elisa Carrió?
I’m not going to defeat anyone. I’m confident that our team will receive more votes than UNEN. Any of our candidates could have headed this list, unlike UNEN, which is a Carrió-centric team.
Why have the primaries not been implemented at the City level?
Mauricio Macri’s presidential bid was at stake, so the old tradition of setting up lists by consensus consolidated through his leadership was applied. By 2015, this will be modified. There’s no way to move forward in a healthy manner in the city without implementing primaries.
You came third on a list by La Nación of wealthy candidates. Could this bother some voters?
Not really. I believe things must be made transparent. I would have never imagined that I would come third. I’m middle class, I live in Belgrano and the US$500,000 I end up declaring is not exorbitant. Part of it is from an inheritance, but I am not going to come out with a statement, because I really have nothing to hide or explain.
Why did the president praise and open the prospect of dialogue with Macri?
Macri tells you the truth: he called and she picked up. Cristina, with the political intelligence she has, picked Mauricio as her opponent.
Don’t Kirchnerism and the PRO share a lot of business deals?
No. For example?
In 2008, Macri granted Cristóbal López a legal shield, or framework, so he could introduce 1,500 slot machines in the City.
It wasn’t a legal shield, it was a law in the Legislature that proposed a tax rate for gambling that exceeded the level a judge had allowed. The legal shield was provided by the courts. There’s no partnership between the PRO and Kirchnerism. People also allege legislative accords in the real estate sector, but when you don’t have absolute majority you have to negotiate with other parties in matters pertaining to the city’s development.
Cleaning the city is one of the most criticized aspects of the PRO government...
It’s a very problematic issue. The current contract was signed during Ibarra’s administration, and will only be renewed now through a tender. The tender for the actual cleaning of the City is also underway and we are confident this will address people’s more than valid concerns, as the city is currently dirty.
You have recently attended several inaugurations. Does the use of public works for electoral purposes not concern you?
As soon as we evolve as a society and reach a level of maturity in terms of favouring institutions, the republic and popular interest, instead of demagoguery and populism, we will have leaders that manage these issues with other criteria. When you have symmetrical and disloyal competition, you do things that verge on shady. The same goes for party colours; I think we should increasingly separate government from partisan activity.
Is the urbanization of impoverished neighbourhoods (villas) a priority for the PRO?
It’s priority for land under its jurisdiction. Villa 31 has been used by the national government to create an opposition enclave within the city.
Macri 2015. How do you hope to build a core and electorate in Buenos Aires province in only two years, having not presented your own list this year?
We will have to build a formal alliance that includes our own candidates. We have to see who succeeds President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner by inheritance or competition, Scioli or Massa. The agreement with Massa for this year’s election was very prudent.
Does Massa worry you as a presidential rival to Macri?
The question is when he will run. Mauricio will in 2015, and if they compete, the people will decide.
Was there a homogenous reaction in the Jewish community to the government’s accord with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack?
There was a historic and unprecedented condemnation against (Foreign Minister Héctor) Timerman by the entire Jewish community. That Iran is a fundamentalist country that finances and develops international terrorism is irrefutable. Argentina signed (the agreement) to end the investigation into the international connection for business deals: to import oil, triangulating it through Nigeria.
Why does the condemnation not resonate with the president?
Cristina’s actions are seen through the lens of a demagogue’s state policy. I think it wasn’t naive or innocent. I think it was perverse to send a Jew to sign the treaty on Holocaust Memorial day. The community expected Timerman’s resignation. He handed over everything, lied, deceived and gave up the most important thing: memory, to a regime that denies the Holocaust.
Surely some blame falls on Fernández de Kirchner too, then?
There are other interests. There is business with Cristina, and the Jewish community, like many other sectors of society, often giving priority to interests and business over principles. But who stands up to Cristina here? No one.