It might have been a cloudy, slightly fresh Sunday but in the second basement of the InterContinental Hotel in Buenos Aires, it might have been a mid summer’s day. Packed to its chocolate-and-cream walls with supporters, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had picked the best downtown hotel which didn’t reflect too much ritz or glamour for her post-election appearance.
Unlike the access passes provided by the CFK camp on Friday and Saturday. Gaudy silver and metallic-blue wrist bands reminiscent of the Creamfields electronic music festival were issued, naturally the colours representing Belgrano’s flag.
With press setting up shop in the media area from Chile, the US and even South Korea, such interest showed just how much of a landmark victory this presidential election was likely to be. From 7.30pm onwards, the coffee vats long empty, youth group La Cámpora, Kolina supporters group and HIJOS human rights organization mingled with the general public who had the connections to get in.
Costume designer Marcela had fittingly made her own CFK T-shirts sporting the caption “I’m also a bitch. And I’m going to vote for her,” one of which she gave to the Herald.
The former Communist Party youth member said: “I wanted to be here because everything that is happening is according to my principles. I’m celebrating a return to my beliefs. I liked her campaign. If I was a mother, I’d be happy; if I was gay, I’d be happy; if I was a pensioner, I’d be happy,” referring to child benefit, equal marriage rights and a bi-annual pension hike which the President has introduced. She predicted Fernández de Kirchner would take home 55 percent of the vote.
Single mother of twins Teresa, who works at the driving licence registry, was emotional about being at the Victory Front headquarters. “Society has changed. There used to be a group of powerful people — and the poor. But equality now exists and Cristina has given me a salary to support my kids. We might never relive this moment.” One of the 10-year-old twins, who apparently has a CFK ballot pinned to his bedroom door, interrupts his mother: “Well, we might relive this, when we’re older…”
Teresa added: “It means a lot to be here with my sons, and to show them the country that awaits them. I didn’t have that hope when I was 16,and when they were babies in 2001 I couldn’t afford to buy them nappies — they have a decent country.” She predicted that Fernández de Kirchner would take home more than 60 percent of the vote. Inside, the Cámpora choir kept spirits high with various chants. Flyers and leaflets became makeshift fans to mop up moist brows.
At the end of a 20-minute speech which had been variously interrupted with sporadic crowd comments, the impassive President, already assured a second term with 15 percent of the ballot boxes counted, looked about the basement. Mostly serious, talking about her late husband, she also thanked presidents Rousseff (Brazil), Chávez (Venezuela) and Piñera (Chile) for their congratulations, the latter receiving a negative response from supporters, for which she chided them like a mildly annoyed matriarch, appropriate with her own adult children Florencia and Máximo by her side. With her hair a slightly deeper shade of red than usual, a more vibrant purple eye-shadow, was this a CFK taking baby steps in shaking the mourning wear? She then urged her voters to head to Plaza de Mayo. And they followed suit. The walk down Diagonal Norte was littered with publicity debris while the sky was peppered with pink fireworks and marijuana smoke. One man, closely embracing his partner, sported a T-shirt with the logo: “Néstor, your eyes are shut but you opened them for millions.”
Gathering were groups of brightly dressed men, women and teenagers, adorned with badges, some in white, others in red. Nancy, a dancer from the Resaca Murguera de San Cristobal street band, said: “Back in 1976, the military took away the decree which allowed Carnival as a national holiday. But it’s thanks to Cristina we can celebrate it again as she brought it back this year. And that’s the reason we’ve come here.”
Moving into Plaza de Mayo, several men had clambered up onto the iron entrance way to the A line subway entrance for a better view. With half the square cut off, balloons, beer and flags contributed to the party spirit as the expectant crowd awaited their President re-elect.
Appearing at 11.10pm, after asking for “unity from all Argentines” at the InterContinental Hotel, she then urged young people “to politically organize themselves.”
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on October 24, 2011