After Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory in Brazil and in the midst of the Argentinean ruling party’s internal dispute between Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) and President Alberto Fernández, the current Minister of the Interior of Argentina, the ultra-Kirchnerist Wado de Pedro, rushed to Brazil to photograph Lula with a cap bearing the insignia “CFK 2023”. For his part, Alberto Fernández took a plane to be the first president to embrace the Brazilian president who will only formally assume power on January 1, 2023.
In the midst of the race for “the Argentine ruling party disputing Lula”, Cristina appeared in public for the first time, after two months of absence, at an event of the Metalworkers Union. In her solemn speech, she gave credit to the now Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa, for the administration of the economic crisis in the face of inflation that is already presumed to exceed 100% per year.
Perhaps the most unusual part of Cristina’s speech was when she explained that after 12 years of a fortunately Kirchnerist Argentina, 4 years of an unfortunately Macrist Argentina had arrived. And that, although now the country is again going through a “very unhappy” mode (this enormous new unhappiness that has already been going on for three years does not seem to have any responsible), in 2023 there will be a return (without having left) to “the Kirchnerist happiness”.
Meanwhile, Lula, who is not Cristina, after having fiercely disputed the electoral campaign in which he defeated Jair Bolsonaro in a very sharp cross in which mutual accusations abounded, announced in his first speech: “From January 2023, I will govern for 213 million Brazilians, there are not ‘two Brazils’, we are a single country, a single people, a great nation”. The Workers’ Party leader went even further, reinforcing his message with the following statement: “Nobody is interested in living in a permanent state of war. These people are tired of seeing the other as an enemy. It is time to lay down our weapons. Weapons kill and we choose life”.
While Lula made it clear that he will try to recompose a society fractured by political polarization, he went further that when the time comes for his inauguration, Bolsonaro will not be present, given the excuse of a trip abroad. This undemocratic act of not handing over the presidential sash reminds us of 2015, when the outgoing president of Argentina, CFK, without any trip, categorically refused to hand over the presidential sash to the then-elected opposition’s president Mauricio Macri.
Cristina tries to convince Argentines that Kirchnerism and Lulism are assimilated by affinities of all kinds. However, her efforts to weaken democracy and polarize society reveal many more similarities with bolsonarism.
The similarities are not few and range from the protocol disregard when the political rival wins a presidential election, through the identification of the political adversary as an enemy to be eliminated from the political scene to the recurrent interference in the Judiciary.
And the fact is that while Bolsonaro has tried to interfere especially in those judicial institutions that control elections such as the Electoral Tribunal, CFK has interfered in the justice system through initiatives to politicize it (with the excuse of democratizing it), manipulating the Council of the Magistrature or trying, here and now, to change the composition of the Supreme Court of Justice.
The recent election in Brazil has made it clear that the country is absolutely polarized and that, electorally speaking, it is divided in two. Moreover, many voters who cast their vote in favor of Lula or Bolsonaro did so because they were “against each other”, rather than because of affinity with the chosen party/candidate. On these points, the two Mercosur bigwigs are assimilated.
In this order of matters, after the election in Brazil, a hard core of Bolsonarism has tried to keep Bolsonaro as President, despite having been defeated at the polls. This nucleus organized roadblocks and gathered at the main Army headquarters, in all state capitals, to demand a military intervention to prevent Lula’s presidency. Bolsonaro, in tune with this disregard for Lula’s triumph, did not come out to acknowledge his defeat for two days and, when he did, late, gave a speech lasting only two minutes in which he did not acknowledge the PT leader’s triumph, but did state that he would abide by the Constitution.
In Argentina, we also have a hardcore, Kirchnerist, that we do not know how it might react if Kirchnerism loses the election in 2023. What we do know, because she has been warned by her most loyal followers on more than one occasion, also by blocking streets and demonstrating furiously, is that if Cristina is convicted in any of the cases that incriminate her in her duties as a public official, “what a mess will be made”. The call for a “pueblada” (social disorder) and to sweep the Judiciary out of the institutional scene if Cristina is convicted, is too similar to the Bolsonarist idioms.
Cristina is not Lula.
*Translated from Spanish by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva