My first immersion into Argentine politics cleared up at least one issue for me: everyone is blatantly linked to everyone else.
Former president Eduardo Duhalde (2002-2003) is the first Peronist to launch his 2011 presidential campaign, which took place in front of an 11,000-strong crowd at the Costa Salguero.
A Federal Peronist (PF) who helped the late former president Néstor Kirchner to power with the aim of pulling his strings to retain power, the redundant puppeteer has been on the sidelines, making noise, since 2003.
One trade unionist, Andrés from Quilmes, told me that Duhalde is standing for election “as an apology” for the past seven years.
Duhalde’s aims are to bring about peace and social justice: “Argentina is thirsty for peace,” he said at today’s rally.
It was a relatively chilled out, albeit packed, affair. I squeezed past a lot of sweaty people to get to the front and catch a glimpse of the perfectly coiffed 69-year-old in a black pin-stripe suit. None of us dealt terribly well with the 33-degree heat.
His Buenos Aires province governor running mate, Deputy Graciela Camaño, who made headlines in November for giving her Kirchnerite colleague Carlos Kunkel a slap round the face while in session, used to be Duhalde’s Labour Minister. She was standing in the front row next to his wife, the Senator Chiche Duhalde. Camaño’s husband, Luis Barrionuevo, heads one of the biggest, and most powerful trade unions, the catering and restaurant workers who secured a 35% pay hike this year. Rather larger than my Herald one which came in at 13% if I recall…
Barrionuevo’s people were decked out in orange caps and made up large numbers of Duhalde’s supporters. They were also in charge of security, and I was told more than once to “get back and stay back ” by some burly, sweating bodyguards.
Another face in the front row was Martín Redrado, the former central bank chief who was forced to resign at the start of 2010 for not releasing cash to pay off debt. He is standing as Duhalde’s BA city mayor, hardly a surprise given that he has fallen out badly with the Kirchner(s).
What was notable about this political rally is that Duhalde only shared the stage with video footage of Eva Perón, as well as a huge portrait of her, and 48 youths from all 24 provinces.
The message was this: this is a new age, old cronies – take a back seat.
Will it be a new era? Anything can happen in Argentine politics… and it’s only 10 months until election day.