Argentine Mondays: August 14th, 2017
Welcome to Argentine Mondays, your Monday morning update on what happened in Argentina while you were otherwise engaged over the weekend. Sit back and enjoy while the morning caffeine kicks in.
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Okay, so even if you were glued to your phone or Netflix, you probably heard that the PASO or primary elections happened yesterday across the country. Here at AM we'll try to look beyond just the percentages and look into the more anecdotal side of the vote that's seen as a key test for President Mauricio Macri's administration.
But first, the numbers
One statistic that jumped out was the fact that voter turnout was at an all-time low yesterday, with 70-73% of voters actually showing up. While this high percentage may be the stuff of dreams in many democratic countries, the PASO are in fact supposed to be obligatory (it's in the name, after all: that's what the "O" stands for). While some may be subjected to a fine if they cannot justify their absence, absentees are allowed to participate in the legislative elections in October.
Overall, the government alliance Cambiemos has apparently done better than expected on a national level, with victories in the provinces of Mendoza and Cordoba. One surprise was a win in Santa Cruz province, historically a Kirchnerite electoral bastion.
The governmental candidate Elisa Carrió (Vamos Juntos) won a landslide victory in the City of Buenos Aires, with more votes than her opponents put together with 49.56%. One of those opponents, former Education Minister Daniel Filmus, cemented his position in Unidad Ciudadana. Neither result was a real surprise to anyone.
Also, Cambiemos definitely won in Antarctica, in case you were worried.
Buenos Aires Province too close to call
No offence to Antarctica, but Buenos Aires province is the district everyone is really interested in, with votes for former Education Minister Esteban Bullrich (Cambiemos) and former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Unidad Ciudadana) too close to call. At the time of this newsletter, it's being described as a "technical draw": there are votes that still haven't been counted (albeit within a normal margin) and Secretary of Political Affairs of the Interior Ministry Adrián Pérez has said that it's simply a question of waiting for the official and legally binding results.
The initial numbers show that Bullrich obtained 34.19% while Fernández de Kirchner garnered 34.11%: 9 million voted and there is a difference of only 6,000 votes between them.
A major candidate didn't vote
Despite Fernández de Kirchner's intense participation as a candidate, she did not participate in the PASO vote per se because she didn't go to Santa Cruz province to cast her ballot. Her reason is not quite clear: both she and her running partner Jorge Taiana cited a lack of flights to the Southern province and blamed Aerolíneas Argentinas for her absence. However, the company promptly said that there are 14 weekly flights to two cities in that province (remarking that there were 30 available seats yesterday) if she had wanted to return.
Her absence drew sharp criticism from all sides, with comments ranging from "[Her absence] is inexcusable," "It's pathetic" and "You should go ahead and ask her!" (the last comment from Macri). Fernández de Kirchner, for her part, said on social media that she was spending time with her grandson.
Right in the face!
Buenos Aires City mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta spent yesterday morning with ice on his nose after a radio presenter tried to walk discreetly behind him but knocking a painting into Larreta's face, corner-first, instead. The bump looks pretty painful, but both Larreta and Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña laughed it off, with the latter accusing him of "head-butting art." Still, that must have stung.
Catamarca pre-candidate dies
No, this is not ironic. Unfortunately, 48-year-old municipal pre-candidate Jorge Guerrero suffered from a heart attack yesterday morning due to a heated argument about the veda electoral (the electoral ban or silence that prohibits the continuation of any campaign or distribution of political messages by candidates). Guerrero was taken to hospital, where he died at around 15:00. The vote in the province of Catamarca, where this all happened, was described to have been tarnished by this incident.
A really dark room
In Argentina, citizens vote in dark rooms, not "voting booths," often classrooms with the lights turned off and the available party lists strewn on the desks for the voter to place inside an envelope which they then place in the ballot box. After both the provinces of Río Negro and Neuquén suffered snowstorms over the weekend, the Río Negro newspaper reported that the rural area of General Roca held the vote in total darkness after 70km/hour winds knocked trees over and left many without power.
Need a lift?
A pre-candidate, whose name has not been released, was reported to Tucumán city (in the province of the same name) after being spotted taking people to and from their voting stations in a taxi. Enrique Romero, the Tucumán sub-secretary of Transport, told Radio Nacional about the incident: "Right now, we're only applying traffic sanctions [...] but in October [the actual legislative elections] this sort of thing will be reported to the Electoral Commission."
The worst part? The pre-candidate's driving licence was expired.
A non-candidate wins in La Rioja
Former president Carlos S. Menem won in his province of La Rioja, but he's not technically approved as a pre-candidate. The National Electoral Chamber had disqualified his pre-candidacy previously, but said that the ballots that had already been printed could be used. "I am a candidate [at least] as of today. Don't try to confuse everyone," said Menem.
The issue reached the Supreme Court, which decided to postpone the decision until after the PASO elections: not particularly helpful. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks.
Grandmother, great-grandmother and voter
While turnout was at an all-time low, one person who was not obligated to vote due to her age got up early and voted in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Caballito anyway. Luisa turned 100 in April and has participated in every vote she could since 1951, despite that Argentines do not have to go to the dark room once they pass the age of 70. She voted while admiring family and neighbours looked on: according to La Nación "she feels like a woman of 65 or 70."
The 30% of people who didn't show up yesterday really don't have an excuse.
For non-PASO news, make sure to check the full article on Coriolismo!
What to look out for this week:
US Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Argentina today in the context of a Latin America trip — maybe not the best time for maximum attention, but it is what it is. Yesterday, in Colombia, he vindicated US President Donald Trump's comments on a military intervention in Venezuela as a possibility. This was opposed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Macri has been vocal about the situation in Venezuela since he came to power, so a Pence-Macri press conference might make for an interesting listen.
Boca Juniors Football Club will be playing against Gimnasia y Tiro de Salta at 21:10 today. It might only be the 32nd-finals of the Copa Argentina, but when the team arrived in Formosa province, there were thousands of fans waiting for them at around 20:00 yesterday.
If knowledge is power, being informed helps you power through the morning.
Or at least have a conversation or two.