From Saturday Chicago Tribune newspaper. I include it because there is little interest in Argentina here, few news articles, and this one is an example of a slightly negative attitude toward Argentina. Perhaps I should write and complain.
In Argentina, running for 2nd place
As first lady leads in polls, rivals are counting on runoff
By Colin McMahon | Tribune staff reporter
BUENOS AIRES - The most recent campaign poster from presidential candidate Elisa Carrio says nothing about winning. Like every Argentine voter, Carrio knows that victory is beyond her reach when the country goes to the polls Sunday.
Instead, facing Sen. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the powerhouse wife of Argentina's president, Carrio has set her sights much lower:
"We're going to the runoff," the poster promises. "You coming?"
With First Lady Fernandez dominating in the polls, the long list of opposition candidates has been reduced to hoping for a long shot: that Argentine voters ignore the sense that Fernandez's election is a done deal and that someone from the left, right or middle can squeeze into a second round.
"Right now it is a race between Cristina and 40 percent," said political consultant Felipe Noguera, referring to Fernandez as everyone does, by her first name. "We have six or seven opposition candidates who cannot come to an agreement and who are not seen by most of the population as viable. ... It's more of a free-for-all for second place."
Should Fernandez win with 45 percent of the vote, or 40 percent with at least a 10-point lead over her closest rival, she would capture the presidency outright. That would make her the first woman elected president of Argentina.
Still a macho bastion
This is no small feat. Argentine women have made tremendous political gains in the past 25 years, going from a tiny presence in the national legislature to controlling more than 30 percent of the seats in both houses. Yet Argentina still thinks of itself as a macho bastion.
Just last week, two Argentine legends offered their views of the top female candidates.
The rocker Charly Garcia, who is most often, and most generously, described as an Argentine Bob Dylan, explained that he would not vote for a woman "because I am a man."
Soccer's Diego Maradona, while expressing support for Fernandez, said he could not vote for Carrio because she is "unpresentable." This from a man whose binges on food, drugs and alcohol have more than once landed him bloated and disoriented in intensive care.
If American voters were uncomfortable with the attention paid to a glimpse of Sen. Hillary Clinton's cleavage, imagine how their eyes might widen at the focus on style and looks in this presidential contest.
Debate about the issues has been sparse. A recent poll in the newspaper La Nacion showed that 7 in 10 Argentines are paying little or no attention to the presidential campaign.
Fernandez has talked to the national media once about her plans for governing, and that came Wednesday, the second-to-last day of her campaign. Hours of airtime and reams of newsprint are spent instead on her sharp suits, high-heeled shoes and affection for handbags.
Much is made of the total lack of charisma of Roberto Lavagna, a former economy minister who cannot gain traction in the polls even though he is widely viewed as the architect of Argentina's remarkable recovery.
Then there is Carrio, who has tried to turn her physical and sartorial plainness into a campaign advantage.
She boasts that not spending time or money on her appearance keeps her more in touch with the common Argentine. She takes jabs at Fernandez's record of rarely being seen in public without precisely coiffed hair and skillfully, if liberally, applied makeup.
"A queen of Botox," Carrio jabbed while making an indirect but viciously clear comparison between Fernandez and Eva Peron.
In this corner: Evita
Yes, Eva Peron is a player in this election too. Argentina remains divided over its most famous icon. (Evita still tops Che Guevara, at least until Broadway weighs in with "The Motorcycle Diaries: The Musical.") But that has not stopped Fernandez from summoning the specter of Juan Peron's lovely, fiery and ultimately tragic second wife.
Like Eva Peron, Fernandez presents herself as a champion of the working class. Like Juan Peron, and her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez could be expected to govern with the mix of socialism, nationalism, populism and state capitalism that is Peronism.
Kirchner's four years in the Pink House, as the presidential seat is known, saw Argentina make a remarkable rebound from economic disaster. Defying international lenders, pressure from Washington and the warnings of countless economists, Kirchner pursued sometimes unorthodox policies aimed at creating jobs, boosting exports and controlling prices.
Much of it has worked. Inflation is a serious threat, no matter how much the Kirchner government has tried to wish it away. If it explodes, as some economists fear, inflation could turn Argentina's boom back into a familiar bust.
But so far under Kirchner, poverty and unemployment have fallen sharply. Argentina has enjoyed economic growth of more than 8 percent a year since 2003. And Kirchner's high approval ratings consistently make him one of the most popular leaders in the Americas.
That popularity allowed Kirchner to basically anoint his wife as successor. Fernandez was chosen not through any primary or even through a party vote, evidence that a political system beset by crises remains broken. Kirchner just decided that rather than run again, he would step aside and let Fernandez try to keep the Pink House in the family.
Though Argentine law prohibits presidents from serving more than two terms in a row, there is nothing to say that Kirchner could not come back to run in 2011 and then hand off power to Fernandez again.
"I don't like the way Kirchner did this, ... as if it were a dynasty," said Maria Lopez, 68, an executive secretary in Buenos Aires. "I don't like Carrio either because she is always so negative, always criticizing and denouncing everything.
"But you know what? She's right!"
But tomorrow is new day and new chance. -- Alija
Nel cielo biancazzurro brilla un'altra stella - In the lightblue sky another star shines. Alija tu non sarai mai sola. Alija you will never be alone.