“I apologize, I’m a little nervous, I’ve never done this in my life and I’m doing it because I’m very worried. I was born in Sweden, when there was a dictatorship in Argentina. My mother was 16 years old when she was kidnapped, pregnant with me, and she went to a concentration camp.” Whoever speaks in a car on line A of the Buenos Aires metro is Ana Fernández, granddaughter of Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, one of the founders of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. This is not a coordinated action by a group of political activists, but an individual presentation, out loud, by a woman, purse on her shoulder, who passes for just another passenger.
Ballestrino de Careaga was kidnapped along with 11 other relatives of victims of the military dictatorship in December 1977, due to the betrayal of the sailor Alfredo Astiz, the emblematic repressor who had infiltrated the group of the Santa Cruz Church of Buenos Aires under the name fake “Gustavo Niño”. At the time of her disappearance, this biochemist exiled from Paraguay was looking for two sons-in-law. One of her daughters, Ana María, had been released after being tortured and had settled in Sweden, where the young woman was born who now warns in the subway of the Argentine capital about the dangers of the far-right Javier Milei and his candidate for vice president, Victoria Villarruel. .
Ana Fernández tells the passengers that her grandmother was thrown alive into the sea on one of the “flights of death”, after passing through the ESMA concentration camp, where it is estimated that around 5,000 people were kidnapped. “In the ESMA there was (Jorge) ‘El Tigre’ Acosta, they can gugle him, a genocidaire who today asks that you vote for Milei.”
It’s true. Acosta, sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, is one of the repressors who recently regained his speech and expressed in writing his hope for the victory of the far-right economist. “I don’t want violence for my children, I love this country, I want to live here, without fear of being kidnapped… Please, for the sake of democracy, don’t vote for Milei,” concludes Ana Fernández.
The reaction of the passengers is ambivalent. Some applaud, others continue looking at their cell phones, in a city where the ultra candidate will surely take advantage of the Peronist Sergio Massa in the presidential elections next Sunday. It has been years since the city of Buenos Aires turned to the right and the way back does not seem close, not even with a figure of Milei’s characteristics.
With everything said for the presidential elections in Argentina and a crucial debate that, according to unanimous opinion, the Peronist Sergio Massa won, examples of “micromilitancy” have multiplied, such as that of the granddaughter of the co-founder of Madres de Plaza de Mayo. There are dozens on public transportation in cities like Buenos Aires and Rosario that have gone viral on social networks. A 79-year-old pulmonologist with 55 years of experience, a professor for decades in public universities; a pediatrician of his generation; a veteran of the Falklands War; a retired teacher, survivor of a concentration camp; lyrical singers; scholarship holders from the state scientific system; art students; the mother of a girl with a severe health problem are other examples who have taken to the streets and subway cars to win the battle against the extreme right.
All of them have personal and collective causes to defend, because the far-right and his running mate have already announced that they intend to privatize education and hospitals, eliminate public care for serious health cases because the rest of society does not have to bear the expense, bow to the British position that the population settled in the Malvinas must decide their sovereignty and transform the hectares of the ESMA property into a public park so that they can be “enjoyed by all the Argentine people.”
These proclamations and many others of similar tenor were expressed by Milei, Villarruel and their aides over the last three years, before interviewers from the main media groups who either remained silent or celebrated them as daring acts. In some cases, when the proposals began to have some cost in terms of voting intention, the far-right qualified them or outlined that they are “second or third generation” reforms.
Peronism and the left have experience in the so-called “micromilitancy” of the days before voting, which in past elections allowed them to obtain victories or shorten losses that were expected to be greater.
This time, nothing is said. The polls agree that it will be a very close count, with a difference in the order of 52% to 48% or even tighter.
In recent weeks, dozens of collective manifestos were also made public with signatures of all kinds, from artists to psychologists, university professors, human rights activists, journalists, neighborhood clubs or writers, calling not to vote for the La Libertad Avanza candidate. . Below, a network of alliances with a broad ideological arc has been formed, from left to center-right, from Peronism to liberals, in the style of the “cordon sanitaire” that blocked the Le Pen candidacies in France, but there has been no translation in political pacts for that purpose.
On the contrary, the wing that responds to former president Mauricio Macri, the majority in the conservative coalition that was left out of the second electoral round, Together for Change, actively advocates for Milei’s presidency, with logistical, technical and financial advice. The traditional Radical Civic Union, a member of Together for Change, and the dissident Peronism of the province of Córdoba chose neutrality, and its leadership was divided between the two options of the second round or the blank vote.
The majority of the parties that make up the Left Front and the Workers, which came fifth in the first round, also declared themselves neutral, although polls show that their electorate will turn overwhelmingly in favor of Massa. On the other hand, the Peronist candidate achieved the formal support of some provincial parties and the minority Socialist party.
Milei is on her way and she can win. On the one hand, she receives the impetus from the right-wing vote that has been taking place for years and explains the radicalized drift of Macri and the defeated Patricia Bullrich, whom her strategists once described as “Obamists.” Added to this is the “anger” vote. [protesta] which emerged during the pandemic in combination with the burden of an economic crisis that has lasted more than a decade, the initial ground on which Milei gained momentum.
Although Peronism continues to prevail in neighborhoods of workers and the poor, La Libertad Avanza has managed to penetrate the popular vote in a way that the virtually extinct Together for Change had never achieved. With special emphasis on social networks, from there another “micro-militancy” emerges in favor of Milei against “the caste” that could be decisive for Sunday’s result. Meanwhile, La Libertad Avanza has clouded the end of the campaign by installing a discourse of “fraud” similar to that propagated by other far-right forces in the United States or Brazil.
Clarín and La Nación have spoken of a “campaign of fear” of Peronism, in non-explicit support and with some internal variant within each media group, for the far-right project. Along the same lines, factors of economic power, especially agribusiness, are also excited about a turn that will result in tax cuts, extreme liberalization of foreign trade and dollarization.
Return of the ‘Green Falcons’
Milei and Villarruel also have more controversial pillars, who had not been noted in the Argentine public sphere with such clarity for decades. Retired Army Captain Iván Volante accused Agustín Rossi, Massa’s running mate and former Minister of Defense, on social media of organizing social and family gatherings in military facilities. In parallel, published a video on Tik Tok in which a green Ford Falcon car is seenemblematic vehicle of the kidnappings during the dictatorship, set to music with a military march and the legend “seven… although a little uncomfortable they enter that trunk.”
The Army rejected the expressions and initiated “corresponding administrative actions” against Volante, with whom Villarruel, Milei’s militarist arm, expressed solidarity. This lawyer, who dedicated her entire life to connecting with repressors and publishing her version of her story, calls the children, parents or siblings of the disappeared “relatives of terrorists.”
The allusions to the green Falcons have multiplied. Many of those who have expressed themselves in favor of Massa have begun to receive threats on their cell phones and via social networks, although there are cases that have escalated, because they indicated follow-ups. Agustín Robolá, president of the Youth of the Radical Civic Union of the City of Buenos Aires and one of the most emphatic against Milei within his party, received a message with images of him tomadas near his home with the text: “Stay calm… the Falcon starts in (the neighborhood of) Almagro next week.”