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De la Sota-Kirchners: a long, divided story

By Mariano Beldyk
For The Herald

Córdoba governor has had a complicated relationship with the Kirchner governments

They have been allies and rivals, depending on circumstances. But the feeling of suspicion has always laced their relationship, even when three-time governor of Córdoba José Manuel de la Sota preferred the smiley Peronist snapshots with the Kirchner couple over the verbal cross-fire he’s participated in during the last few hours.

“Next Tuesday, I’ll be right on time, sitting at the Dialogue Table, to demand that Córdoba province’s debt is paid off,” De la Sota claimed yesterday, after announcing an accord with police forces that puts an end to their strike.

By that time, an uneasy calm prevailed across the landscape of the Mediterranean province — as Córdoba is popularly known — but a new episode of the De la Sota-Kirchner Cold War was just beginning to ripen.

It was neither an epilogue, nor will it be the conclusion of a long history of clashes among both Peronists figures.

De la Sota’s feelings toward late former president Néstor Kirchner are not too different from the ones he professes toward his widow and current head of state, Cristina Fernández.

Back in 2003, when political parties were once again struggling to conquer voters’ confidence in the first presidential elections after the 2001 financial and institutional meltdown, De la Sota and Kirchner challenged each other for the Peronist vote.

They were not strangers in the party. On the contrary, they were both governors — Kirchner had been in Santa Cruz province since 1991 and De la Sota, who was heading toward the end of his four-year term in Córdoba — and both shared a common history in Justicialist Party ranks during president Carlos Menem’s decade, even though the Córdoba leader had boosted Me-nem’s re-reelection at the same time the southerner, Kirchner, was leading a dissident Peronism faction.

When time came for caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde to choose his dauphin for the 2003 electoral test, his first choice after Santa Fe province governor Carlos Reutemann stepped aside was De la Sota. But the polls of the day did not favour his candidate, and he finally leaned toward an almost unknown figure from Río Gallegos, a far-away city in the southern Argentina.

That may have doomed any future partnership among them but Peronists know how to line up behind the winner as taught by their mentor Juan Domingo Perón. At least, that is, during electoral times.

Nevertheless, the first crack came with Kirchner’s strategy to enhance the Victory Front’s political borders by allying with leftist forces while civil society figures shaped the “Concertación” political front.

As a fully Peronist-rooted figure, De la Sota distrusted the Kirchnerite decision to approach Córdoba City Mayor Luis Juez, a long-time local rival, after the 2005 mid-terms. His disapproval later turned into resentment when a sector within Kirchnerism backed Juez during his 2007 campaign for governor instead of closing ranks behind his own political heir, Deputy Governor Juan Schiaretti.

Consequently, no-one should have been surprised when the new governer or Córdoba Schiaretti and De la Sota himself took the side of farmers during Fernández de Kirchner’s most critical time in government: the 2009 lockout over soybean taxes.

Cordoba’s governor later insisted on accusing the national government of not transferring funds owed to Córdoba and tried to join together an opposition front with other national anti-Kirchnerite figures, including Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri.

Yesterday De la Sota thanked the PRO leader for publicly demanding the Kirchnerite administration to leave political differences aside when social peace is under threat.

@Mibeldyk

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