Argentina 2019
Fernández On the Up during First Debate, Macri Still Looking Fine
The Peronist candidate maintained his offensive, but seemed a little arrogant. Macri stayed close to his corner leaving no surprises, but looked in top form to deal with the crisis he is facing.

Alberto Fernández delivered the initial blow in the first 45 seconds of the debate. The Peronist accused Macri of being a liar, reminding him of the 2015 debate against Scioli when the current president had promised zero hunger, no adjusting, and no going to the IMF, among other commitments. "I'm here to tell you the truth," fired off Fernández. Interestingly enough, in the lead up to the debate Fernández was siding with Scioli, as reported by LPO.

The Frente de Todos candidate sought to polarize Macri in each and every one of his interventions. As well as asking the president not to lie, he accused him of not understanding the reality in which Argentina finds itself. "I don't know what country Macri lives in, he does not cease to amaze me," Fernández snapped, adding while they debated on the economy that, "of the 39 billion dollars Argentina took on as debt, 30 billion bled out, absconded by Mr. president's friends, instead of being invested in bridges [JT1] and roads. One day they'll have to explain all this, that's the only truth here - it's time for him to stop lying to us."

Macri Ends His Term Leaving State Oil Company YPF in the Red

Fernández displayed ability garnered from years in politics but a certain arrogant tone made its way through. His finger pointing on more than one occasion aimed at Macri stuck to a strategy that was less elaborate than what might have been expected from his team, who are supposedly one of the most professional. Macri's closeness to the script meant he lost prime lead ins to weak points that weigh down Kirchnerism as well as losing time naming administrative programs with little impact that few people are familiar with.

Fernández displayed his gift of being a professional politician, greatly reducing his margin of error, but could not disguise a hint of arrogance. Macri stuck to a tedious script, losing the element of surprise, but he looked very well considering the crisis Argentina is experiencing and its forecasted future

At the end of the first segment of the debate, after covering foreign policy and the economy, the president managed to throw in a monkey wrench when he reminded Fernández about his criticism of Cristina during Fernández's years of estrangement.

"I'm glad Frente de Todos now recognizes the corruption problem - in our next debate we will have a lot to talk about," Macri prompted, alluding to the debate that will take place next Sunday at the UBA (University of Buenos Aires) Faculty of Law. But beyond the predictable elements of his performance, he looked well, his face healthy-looking, far from the image of a president who is overwhelmed by the crisis currently battering Argentina.

Macri appealed to his administration in the city of Buenos Aires where his first term of office did not conclude with the best image but he seemed to think he could overcome it during a second term. In expected self-critical remarks he recognized that the burden on the middle class, "has been quite large" and said he understood how difficult it is for families to get to the end of the month, perhaps to counteract the idea that he is a millionaire far removed from the problems of ordinary people. This was picked up on by the international press, specifically on Sunday by the Financial Times.

Alberto, in an about-face from comments he made before the deba te, did indeed seem to have been coached, starting with sensationalist jabs, but once again missing the opportunity to clarify his position on Venezuela. He avoided classifying Maduro's  regime as a dictatorship or placing it in another category and limited his pronouncements to confirming that his position is one of non-intervention. On the other hand, he did acknowledge the drama Venezuelans are now living through.

Alberto wants to apply the U.S. security model to combat insecurity

For Alberto Fernández, Macri's main failure was related to the economy because, "he doesn't understand anything." Macri explained that in Argentina, the population consumes 70% of what is produced, and when consumption is affected, production is affected, and this creates unemployment and poverty. "You, sir, will end your term of office with 5 million newly poor people," Macri reprimanded Fernández during one of his stronger speeches. And in a perhaps forward-looking message he warned, "If I have to be orthodox, then I'm going to be orthodox."

Macri justified the external debt by affirming that two out of every three pesos coming in to the country were used to pay the previous government's debt and the other peso went to the fiscal deficit. He maintained that financial commitments grew during his administration by 25% of the GDP while during Kirchnerism it was 38%. These numbers were rejected by Alberto, who during other segments confirmed the news first reported by LPO , announcing that if he wins, he will create the Ministry of Women  and Diversity, a position that those who are part of the Frente de Todos believe will end up back in the hands of deputy Victoria Donda.

Roberto Lavagna tried to position himself throughout the debate as above the crossfire between Macri and Fernández, although it was clear he was closer to Fernández, who on one occasion even reused one of his statements. Reportedly, Fernández rejected a suggestion from Cristina Kirchner weeks ago that would place Lavagna in a position related to the economy if Fernández were to win the election, but clearly, there are other forces at work.

In fact, Lavagna did not shy away from attacking Macri, telling him, "It's not true that exports are increasing. Since 2005 until now, 1700 businesses have ceased exporting activities."

In discussing education, Espert surprised the audience with a proposal to place fees on university education and with this budget  change it to primary and secondary levels. He did this in the university's auditorium, a building that was constructed under the auspices of university reform in 1938. In the press room, located in a neighboring building to the auditorium, where coverage is limited to the televised broadcast, students booed unanimously. These students collaborate with the organization that follows the debate along with journalists.

What is more, the economist made a stand against guildism and said that health care had no place in unions and that, "nowhere in the world do they have health coverage." In the first segment he threw barbs at worker representatives: "It's time for Moyano to stop ripping off social justice," he prodded.

Another spark filled moment came when Macri lauded the improvements in Pami that, "now operate transparently, and grandparents have recipes on their cell phones." Fernández retorted, "Mr. President, grandparents don't have cell phones, let's be serious now."

In the last segment of the debate, Macri seemed to become more confident and relaxed. He even chastised the candidate for governor in the province of Buenos Aires, Axel Kicillof, telling him that he was going to be doing "narco-training in schools."

This in response to Alberto's attack, who recalled the president's comment about "kids who naturally fall into public school" and Vidal when he questioned the higher education institutions in Conurbano because, "poor people don't go to university."

Macri chastised Axel Kicillof, who wasn't at the debate, and stated that his government was going to give "narco-training in schools." The comment was very poorly received in Vidal's circles because the President seemed to be implying that he has already lost the election in Buenos Aires province.

Nevertheless, LPO discovered that Macri's statement was very poorly received in Vidal's circles because the President seemed to be implying that he had already lost the election in Buenos Aires province.

During conclusions, Lavagna pointed to the last eight years, "of failures" and asked his two main competitors to "stop mocking Argentinians and admit that mistakes have been made."

"From opposing ideological standpoints, their economic results have been equally disappointing," the ex-minister of the economy stated, referring to Cristina Kirchner and Macri's last term of office.

To wrap up, Macri picked up on Alberto's tone, which he used as reason for reproach stating, "the finger-pointing is back, the lecture podium, the waving arms. Kirchnerism hasn't changed, it's the same."

Fernández didn't have anything left and his conclusions were dedicated to reminding viewers about the two thousand risk points for the country and satirizing about how Argentina has been turned upside down. "They say we keep making the same mistake, and the mistake is them," he finished.

Translation: Jesse Tomlinson.  

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