CFK talks electoral behind the scenes at “death flight” plane repatriation

“If there had been PASO, Wado was our candidate”

Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner drew back the curtain on the ruling coalition’s decision to put forward Economy Minister Sergio Massa as a presidential candidate for this year’s elections in a speech this afternoon. His candidacy, announced on Friday, came as a surprise because the day before, Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro was being welcomed as a presidential candidate by allies.

“If there had been [intra-coalition primaries], Wado was our candidate,” Kirchner said — Massa was sitting directly to her right and De Pedro in the audience. 

She was the last speaker during an event at the Jorge Newbery airport (known as Aeroparque), to officially repatriate a Skyvan aircraft used to murder victims of state terrorism during the Argentine dictatorship. Members of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Association were in attendance alongside Unión por la Patria (UxP) politicians. The plane will be displayed at the ESMA Museum and Site of Memory.

You may also be interested in: The final voyage of Argentina’s “death flights”

Source: Télam

“Context comprehension”

In a bid to calm the turbulence following the somewhat frantic candidacy definitions, Kirchner laid out how the UxP coalition’s unexpected decision to go with Massa was reached. She addressed Peronist activists generally, saying “You must have been surprised” and acknowledged the nodding heads of people present.

“Of course there was surprise, for a year and a half they’ve been beating the drum with ‘PASO, PASO, PASO,’” Kirchner said, referring to President Alberto Fernández and the schism within the ruling coalition over whether or not there should be multiple candidates in August’s primary elections (PASO by their Spanish acronym).

The vice president went on to heavily criticize the president and others within UxP for insisting on intra-coalition primary elections. 

“I don’t want to mince my words: the president was carrying the torch for the PASO but when we look at society and the political context there has to be context comprehension,” she said, pointing out that 15 governors called for a unified ticket earlier this month had demanded a unified ticket, i.e. a single list of candidates. “Yet until Friday, we had the minister for Social Development [Victoria Tolosa Paz] proposing primaries.”

Kirchner emphasized the importance of a unified ticket and said that both Massa and De Pedro were aware of the situation: she described a strategic meeting with Massa last Monday, five days before the deadline, and praised De Pedro for being one of the “very, very few” who “go where the [political] project decides without caring if it’s in his self-interest.”

She also contended that given the need for a unified ticket, De Pedro’s candidacy could not have gone forward because Fernández would not have approved and told him “not to worry.”

“And that is the plain truth of the matter, that’s how the PASO [candidacies] were concluded,” Kirchner said. “It’s worth de-dramatizing and letting people see what a political discussion is about. It’s constructive.”

“Order exists in cemeteries: nobody talks, nobody fights. Politics is about steering disorder.”

“We need a law against denialism”

“I can’t believe that the last thing that my mother saw was a plane that pushed them out and threw them into the sea,” said Cecilia de Vicenti, daughter of Azucena Villaflor. Villaflor was a founder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and a passenger on one of the infamous “death flights” carried out by the repatriated plane on December 14, 1977.

“I want the plane at the Ex ESMA so all the denialists that say this didn’t happen can see it. And if we win [the elections], let’s pass a law against denialism because they can’t keep saying those outlandish things,” said De Vicenti.

There were several mentions of denialism throughout the event, alluding to those who minimize or attempt to discredit the fact that 30,000 people were forcefully disappeared during Argentina’s last military dictatorship. 

“Argentina did not need a denialism law until 2015, it’s incredible that there are people in our country who deny what happened,” Kirchner said. “We need a law against denialism.” 

The Skyvan aircraft, which was behind the speakers on the airport tarmac throughout the event, was flown in from the United States. The plane was discovered in 2010 as Argentine journalist and current Press Ombudswoman Miriam Lewin and an Italian photographer tried to track down its pilots. As was recounted at today’s event, the Economy Ministry bought the plane earlier this year after months of negotiations. 

“By recovering the airplane we are contributing to our memory, above all to our commitment as a society to democratic values,” Massa said. “Let’s build a wall that will put limits on those who want to take away rights in Argentina — that is our task in the next few months.”

The Skyvan’s final flight began in early June, including several stops due to the airplane’s short flight range, and the Argentine state was able to take possession of the aircraft when it landed.

Following Massa’s speech, Kirchner applauded his willingness to repatriate the plane, joking about his tendency to make wagers and saying that “in order to win, you have to gamble.”

You may also be interested in: The shadow of denialism, 40 years into our democracy


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