First Presidential Debate in Argentina: Economy And Human Rights At The Center

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The candidates Massa (for Peronism) and Milei (self-proclaimed liberal but with far-right policies) were the protagonists of the first presidential debate in Argentina. The most discussed topics were the economy and human rights .

Presidential debate in Argentina

Photo: EFE/Tomás Cuesta /POOL

Concepción M. Moreno | EFE

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Leer en español: Primer debate presidencial en Argentina: La economía y los derechos humanos como centro

The candidate of La Libertad Avanza, Javier Milei, and the Minister of Economy and official candidate, Sergio Massa, were 'chosen' as protagonists of the main duel in a pre-electoral debate with a view to the October 22 elections, in which there was no winners and in which the economy was the center of speeches, questions and responses.

The first of the two mandatory debates established by the National Electoral Chamber (CNE) prior to the October elections was held this Sunday in Santiago del Estero, the oldest city in Argentina, and included the economy, education and human rights and democratic coexistence.

Under a strange format, which only allowed 5 replies for the entire night to each candidate - Milei and Massa exhausted them in the first block, while the candidate of the Left and Workers' Front, Myriam Bregman, administered them in such a way that arrived at the human rights space with three available -, the five politicians who seek to occupy the Casa Rosada since December 10 showed their proposals and ideas on those three issues.

Precisely Milei and Massa, the two most voted in the primary elections on August 13, are the ones who, according to most surveys, are most likely to reach the second round on November 19.

Faced with this panorama, the candidate of the Together for Change coalition (center-right), Patricia Bullrich, the third most voted leader in August, tried to polarize with both : with the minister, as a representative of Kirchnerism who, according to her, "leaves Argentina devastated , chaotic"; and with the libertarian, because, in his opinion, "he is alone" and lacks the national structure that she has.

"Caste" vs. "Unity government"

The libertarian, the big surprise of last August's primaries, maintained a much more moderate tone than usual in his speeches, public appearances or interviews, although he repeated the ideas that made him receive the support of 7.4 million Argentines: criticize to the "political caste" and to proclaim itself as "the only formula capable of ending inflation and insecurity."

For his part, the head of the Treasury Palace reiterated that if he reaches the Presidency he will convene a "unity government", which he would not hesitate to call "even the liberals", as he stated in a query by Milei himself.

Massa was the most questioned by his four opponents , Bullrich, Milei, Bregman and the leader of Hacemos Por Nuestro País, the dissident Peronist Juan Schiaretti, due to the current macroeconomic figures of Argentina which, under the Government of Alberto Fernández, registers 124, 4% year-on-year inflation and 40.1% poverty.

Read also: Poverty And Inflation In Argentina: These Are The Figures

The minister admitted that "the mistakes of this Government hurt the people" and, although he recalled that he has been in the cabinet for just over a year, he apologized for them and asked voters "not to attend on October 22 with anger nor with hatred" and rather "with hope".

Human rights

Although in the education bloc, the candidates exchanged their proposals on the public and the private, with a special look at the union protests in the teaching field - Bullrich said that with it "the history of strikes and indoctrination ends" because he is going to declare "education an essential service, so that strikes are outside the 190 days of class" - human rights raised blisters.

Milei denied the existence of the tens of thousands of missing persons of the last dictatorship (1976-1983) , marked at 30,000 by human rights organizations and "8,753" by official figures, and endorsed the harsh speech of his candidate for vice president , Victoria Villarruel, who equates crimes against humanity committed by the State with the violence of terrorist groups.

"In the 70s there was a war," in which state security forces committed "crimes," but "terrorists also killed people, tortured, planted bombs and committed crimes against humanity," he stated.

Opposite, the left-wing candidate, renowned activist and lawyer of Jorge Julio López, survivor of the dictatorship and disappeared in 2006 after testifying in the trial against former police officer Miguel Etchecolatz, showed her "indignation" at the denialism.

"I am not going to naturalize the return of denialist ideas and the talk of freedom by those people who justify the kidnappings and concentration camps of the dictatorship," said Bregman.

The second debate will take place on Sunday, October 8 at the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and, in the event that there is a second electoral round - which would be held on November 19 -, a third debate will be scheduled for the 12th of that month.