Fishing Venezuelan voters in Argentina

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On September 12, primary legislative elections, or PASO, were held in Argentina. Around 34 million Argentines were called to vote to define the candidates for half of the Chamber of Deputies and one third of the Chamber of Senators. The election ended in a major loss for the ruling left coalition, Todos front, led by President Alberto Fernández and its Vice-President, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK). In Buenos Aires, Juntos por el Cambio, the country’s main opposition force and ruling coalition in the capital, won the elections with 48%.

The political forces are preparing their strategies for the next elections on November 14th. And the voices of 40,000 Venezuelans can help in the Argentine capital. The interesting thing is who is trying to attract those votes and who is not.

A clearly visible presence

The electoral system in Argentina has certain peculiarities. PASO are not the usual primaries where a party chooses its candidate before an election. Here, most of the parties have already drawn up their list of candidates before PASO, they therefore use this election as a huge ballot before the general election, given that, at least in Buenos Aires, anyone can vote in PASO, not just party members. When the legislature real elections take place, we know the names of the candidates for the seat of Congress.

This dynamic takes place in the most important ring, the capital. Buenos Aires’ electoral system allows all foreigners over the age of 16 with permanent residence to vote for members of the city’s legislature. This means that around 40,000 Venezuelans have the right to vote in the next elections in November, as we have already done in the PASO primary.

The PASO results confirmed several things about Venezuelan votes in Buenos Aires. Although there is no data that indicates how every Venezuelan voted in PASO, it is common knowledge that the Venezuelan community is overwhelmingly against Chavismo and therefore we do not support the national government, where CFK, a close friend of the late Hugo Chávez, is a supporter of the Maduro regime. Instead, we tend to vote for right-wing candidates in all political spaces. This time, Venezuelans voted for the Juntos por el Cambio coalition, which supported center-right liberal candidates like Ricardo López Murphy, former Minister of Economy and Defense in the late 1990s and 2000s, under the government of Fernando de la Rúa. PASO also highlighted part of the community’s support for a right-wing populist project, when we saw Venezuelan flags and Venezuelan political activists in Javier Milei’s rallies.

Venezuelans happen to be seriously involved in political work in Buenos Aires. Many Venezuelans were observers at many polling stations across the country, representing the two opposition coalitions. The Venezuelan community of Buenos Aires is well represented, with more than 40 organizations ranging from unions to political parties and immigrant rights movements. Most of these organizations have legal recognition and offer all kinds of assistance to Venezuelans. The Venezuelan organizations present in the city represent a challenge and an opportunity for the parties which must approach the Venezuelan voters. Each coalition has designed its own strategies to attract our vote.

The needs of macrismo

You would think the government would be the most interested in attracting our vote. After all, the peronistas (or justicialistas, as they are called in modern history) are the ones who lose in historically Kirchnerist neighborhoods, to the point where they now run the risk of losing a majority in both houses of Congress. But they understand that Venezuelans in Argentina remember that during the presidencies of Néstor Kirchner and CFK many cases of corruption came to light, and that Caracas helped finance the Kirchner campaign in 2007 with suitcases full of money. Thus, the Peronista movement does not count on the Venezuelan vote and its strategy towards us is disinformation: they intend to confuse the voters about the electoral process or they try to prevent us from entering the lists. election. With the excuse of the pandemic, the national government has slowed down all migration processes, which has prevented many foreigners from obtaining their DNI (the national identity document) in time to vote.

Across the aisle, Juntos por el Cambio is really focused on capturing Venezuelan votes. This coalition currently governs the capital and must retain a majority in the city’s legislature, so that the head of the government of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, can keep his legislative program, constantly sabotaged by the national government. Leading Buenos Aires is a launching pad for the Presidency: this is how Mauricio Macri made his way to Casa Rosada. In the general elections of 2023, Juntos por el Cambio will try to win the government of Buenos Aires for the fifth time in a row, while two of its leaders, Rodríguez Larreta and former Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich, compete to be the Juntos’ candidate for the presidency.

For the two pre-candidates, the Venezuelan vote is now necessary. By 2023, more Venezuelans will have become Argentinian citizens. This is why they have shown themselves close to activists and Venezuelan parties like Vente Venezuela. and Primero Justicia throughout the PASO primary campaign.

Emmanuel Ferrario, head of the list of Juntos por el Cambio candidates for the legislature, made videos ask Venezuelans to vote. The former governor of Buenos Aires and head of the city’s national list, Maria Eugenia Vidal, who is leading the polls to be the next head of government in Buenos Aires, has done the same.

The allure of Argentine Trump

They should notice that many Venezuelans are delighted with another candidate, the populist economist Javier Milei. The rise of this candidate was the biggest surprise in the city: he obtained 13% of the vote, the best result in decades for a right-wing candidate, and the first time that a libertarian could be elected deputy. These results can be understood for many reasons, such as his disruptive style, with long hair, fiery speeches with lots of yelling and slurs, and his approach to young people: most of Milei’s voters are between 16 and 30 years old. years. . Many see in him the hope of solving the perennial structural problems of the economy, with promises such as massive tax cuts and a general reduction of the state. Also, after four years of Mauricio Macri, many voters believe that voting for Juntos por el Cambio is a return to the political instability of the Macri government which allowed the return of kirchnerismo in 2019, even though Macri is the only non-Peronista president to complete this term in modern history.

The pandemic and its effects on the economy, the populist tone of his speech and the image of strong opposition to the government have prompted thousands of Venezuelans to turn to Milei. Without looking for it, La Libertad Avanza de Milei has achieved success with our community, a success which results in a radicalization of its supporters and accusing all its detractors of being “communists”, just like the Magazuelians in Florida. Maybe we’ll start using the term “Mileizuelans. We already have a classic picture: Azabache, a mid-famous Venezuelan singer in the 80s, stood behind Milei during his triumphant speech holding a Venezuelan flag on the night of the primaries.

In the end, the 40,000 Venezuelans who will vote in the legislative elections in November will choose between two opposing forces who are proposing similar things with different approaches. Milei presents himself as the ideological antithesis of Chavismo but lacks the structure to bring about fundamental changes in the country, while the more moderate candidates of Juntos por el Cambio are ready to negotiate with the justicialismo but have the experience. government and an existing party organization. We will have to wait until November 14 to see whether Venezuelans will vote with emotion or rationality for the future of Argentina, which has more than 300,000 Venezuelans.


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