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Merlo Mayor Otacehé jumps ship to Massa

An old-guard peronist to strengthen the ‘Renewal.’ Merlo Mayor Raúl Othacehé, who has led one of the poorest districts of Buenos Aires province since 1991, jumped ship from the ruling Victory Front to the Renewal Front yesterday. The move illustrates how Sergio Massa is relying on several members of the old Peronist guard to build his opposition party.

Alliance with Peronist leader seen as example of how new party relies on old guard

Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa yesterday sealed a deal with Raúl Othacehé — they mayor of one of the poorest districts in Greater Buenos Aires — after a meeting they both shared in the district Othacehé has been ruling since 1991.

The meeting ended a long-time alliance between the 68-year old Peronist leader and the ruling Victory Front (FpV). Othacehé had also been allied with former Buenos Aires province Governor Eduardo Duhalde.

“We’re happy to be joined by a clear Merlo leader, not only because we’re familiar with the great work Othacehé has done here, but also because of what his ruling capacity means,” Massa said. “In terms of political importance, we’re being joined by the experience of a mayor as valuable as Raúl.”

Othacehé also had words of praise for the Tigre mayor.

“It is a great challenge to be joining the Renewal Front. Sergio leads a very strong project with a great future and one that is going to change Argentina,” the four-time re-elected mayor said.

Falling out

The announcement marked a predictable end for Othacehé’s relationship with Kirchnerism.

Last week, following the floods in his district, the Merlo leader had taken aim at the Daniel Scioli provincial administration for “waste accumulation and a lack of investment” in spite of the “repeated demands” made by the local government, in an angry message published on his Facebook account.

The Merlo politician was regarded until last year as a staunch Kirchnerite ally. Othacehé’s wife Mónica Arnaldo even ran as a Kirchnerite lawmaker candidate for last year’s mid-terms, occupying the 17th slot on the FpV ticket.

Before the elections, Nuevo Encuentro — the party led by centre-left former Morón head Martín Sabbatella — decided not to run with a ticket of its own in order to prevent the then-Kirchnerite ally Othacehé from losing the district. They did run, however in neighbouring Ituzaingó.

Renewal Front sources said Othacehé’s decision will mark the beginning of a new “wave” of incorporations to the party led by Massa, who on October 27 beat the ruling party in the Buenos Aires province by 12 percentage points.

Next in line are Ituzaingó Mayor Raúl Descalzo and Campana local leader Stella Maris Giroldi, the same sources said.

Another long-lasting, often-criticized local leader, Malvinas Argentinas Mayor Jesús Cariglino, joined the Renewal Front in June last year.

The criticism over Otachehé’s switch came quickly.

“Finally, Othacehé ends up demonstrating that the was never commited to the national project. And now he has positioned himself where he’s most comfortable — to the right and away from the people,” said Adrián Grana, who is the head of the Buenos Aires province Lower House Nuevo Encuentro lawmakers, the political force that answers to AFSCA media watchdog head Martín Sabbatella.

Grants for school supplies

Meanwhile, a group of mayors of the Greater Buenos Aires area allied to Massa yesterday declared they would grant a 1,500-peso subsidy for school supplies to all municipal workers.

The announcement came six days after President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said she would triple government subsidies to buy school supplies from 170 pesos to 510 pesos, and was also used by Renewal Front allies to take aim at curbing inflation rates.

Massa led a meeting with Tigre Mayor Julio Zamora and local leaders Gustavo Posse (San Isidro), Luis Andreotti (San Fernando) and Jorge Macri (Vicente López).

“We believe it is important to help our neighbours before the beginning of the school term taking into account that prices of school supplies have increased greatly since April last year,” Massa said. Some products have more than doubled in price during the last year, he added.

“We’re trying to have all municipalities led by Renewal Front mayors to do the same thing, in order to show that good administration ends up benefiting people,” the Tigre leader concluded.

Herald staff

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