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September 18, 2014
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Liberals try to rebuild political force

Ricardo López Murphy will be one of the big names at the meeting.
By Mariano Beldyk
For The Herald

Big debate at tomorrow’s summit will be on whether to support Macri in 2015


After long period of internal disputes, Buenos Aires City and Province right-wing forces will finally gather together tomorrow in a political meeting that has already been labelled as the “Vicente López Summit,” in reference to the Buenos Aires province district where the event will be held.

The conclave is already being promoted with an epic tone by some of its organizers as a founding assembly that can determine the future of liberalism in Argentina, at least, for the next two years.

The goal, organizers told the Herald, is to make the Liberalism movement step back into the political arena as an influential player ahead of 2015 presidential election. Now the big debate is who they will support, with several of its members strongly believing that Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri, head of centre-right PRO party, should be their natural presidential candidate to support in 2015. Others, however, are not so sure, citing his low national approval ratings.

For now what is clear is that some of the biggest names among supporters of the free market are going to attend the event, with the highlight being the presence of former economist and two-time presidential candidate Ricardo López Murphy, who will open the conclave.

“We are fully convinced that Macri will be the next Argentinian president,” PRO Libres leader Pedro Benegas told the Herald. PRO Libres is a member of PRO party and presents itself as Macri’s liberal base.

“Our involvement in the political competition through the primaries will contribute to PRO with the huge volume of centre-liberal votes that these days chooses another option,” he added.

Others — perhaps the most idealistic ones — dream of reviving the legendary political umbrella of the largest liberal expression that ever existed in Argentina, late former Economy Minister Álvaro Alsogaray’s Democratic Centre Union party (Ucedé).

Once Argentina’s third-largest political force in the 1980s, the Ucedé party fell victim over the following decade to the Neoliberal Peronist President Carlos Menem’s caudillo-style of power.

Paradoxically, Ucedé didn’t nominate its own candidate in the 1995 presidential race and backed Menem’s reelection campaign but was pushed aside from the key decision-making slots in the national administration — with the exception of one of its policymakers, María Julia Alsogaray, daughter of Ucedé founder.

María Julia’s popularity, however, wasn’t the one Ucedé was expecting considering her name ended up becoming synonymous with corruption.

Ten years later, one of her brothers, Álvaro Alsogaray, who has the same name as his father, is spearheading the plan of to recover Ucedé party’s legal status to compete and will take the proposal to the Vicente López summit.

Internal wrangling

“In my opinion, this is time to be prudent. It would be foolish — and I don’t mean to insult anyone — to try to insert any type electoral content in this meeting,” López Murphy told the Herald.

“We should focus in improving our coordination and cooperation because it’s not understandable that liberalism has supporters all over the country and we aren’t even present in the policy debates,” the politician nicknamed “bulldog” added.

The October midterm elections provided an example of the multiple disagreements that have torn apart liberal parties over the last decade. With no major electorate to divide, PRO Libres policymakers still publicly wrestled with the recently formed Liberal Libertarian party on which one should be recognized as the true liberal figure within City limits. Neither managed to win a seat in the Legislature.

Even now, ahead of tomorrow’s reunion, some resentment prevails.

“We are facing a time of fragmentation but it’s still not as marked as the leftist parties. There are no ideological divisions between us,” Benegas said, adding that he is pushing the idea of once again uniting López Murphy and Macri who separated after Buenos Aires City mayor decided not to support “the bulldog” in his 2007 run for the presidency.

“There is a large number of liberal voters who used to follow López Murphy in the 2003 presidential election and made him win Buenos Aires City. PRO was once created by both of them and half of PRO members were once members of López Murphy’s Recrear party, like myself,” added Benegas.

For now, no option seems out of the question.

@mibeldyk

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