March 11, 2014
Summer is the season for many good and bad things. Unfortunately this summer will go down in history as the season of the nationwide police protests and crippling blackouts in the middle of a heat wave in the month of December. Yet summer in Argentina has also always been about politicians scheming and planning their future moves at beach resorts. This year’s early electioneering in a more relaxed atmosphere are specially interesting because after last year’s midterm defeat in all the major districts the ruling coalition of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is on the defensive and Argentina seems to be heading for a wide-open presidential race in 2015. Today’s opposition trade union gathering in Mar del Plata called by two powerful former rivals, the teamster Hugo Moyano and the restaurant worker Luis Ba-rrionuevo, was designed as the ultimate Peronist beach summmit. Yet two potential presidential candidates with a Peronist background like Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli (still a member of CFK’s ruling Victory Front coalition) and former Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa said they would not attend this meeting. Still the meeting called by Moyano and Barrionuevo is in reality only one of the many political summits of the summer. Scioli and Massa, who are rivals, were photographed along with Barrionuevo (a fierce anti-Kirchnerite) at the opening of a casino in Mar del Plata on Friday.
The holiday hobnobbing is not only a Peronist thing. Non-Peronist opposition leaders have also done a lot of talking. Former Santa Fe Governor and lawmaker Hermes Binner, a Socialist party leader, has huddled with Radical Senator Ernesto Sanz in Mar del Plata. Fernando Solanas, the leader of the centrist UNEN coalition that also includes Elisa Carrió, has held talks with former vice-president Julio Cobos. All those non-Peronist politicians could eventually join forces in 2015 (even when, for instance, Sanz and Cobos are Radical internal rivals in Mendoza province).
Argentina’s tradition of summer political chumming, combined with a bit of backstabbing, is colourful. It is a product of 30 years of democracy and can be fun. But rarely do these innumerable summer meetings make any sense at all to public opinion. The talks are often contradictory and have in the past lead to bizarre political experimentation with results that are more often than not disappointing. The constant holiday talking, if anything, also shows that what Argentina’s perfectible democracy still lacks are strong and coherent political parties.