Kirchner waves goodbye and criticises next administration

Outgoing Argentine president criticised for refusing to attend successor’s inauguration

Outgoing Argentina president Cristina Kirchner delivers a speech to supporters in front of Casa Rosada presidential residence in Buenos Aires. Photograph: EPA

Outgoing Argentina president Cristina Kirchner delivers a speech to supporters in front of Casa Rosada presidential residence in Buenos Aires. Photograph: EPA

 

Tens of thousands of supporters filled Argentina’s most famous square to say goodbye to president Cristina Kirchner, who lauded her government’s achievements while criticising the incoming administration.

As blue and white Argentine flags waved and people cheered on a balmy night, Ms Kirchner gave a speech that was both a recap of her years in power and a clear sign that she does not plan to make things easy for president-elect Mauricio Macri, who will be inaugurated later on Thursday.

Ms Kirchner addressed the crowd on Plaza de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires amid widespread criticism for her decision not to attend Mr Macri’s inauguration.

The two spent much of the last 10 days bickering over where the presidential baton and sash would be handed over.

Mr Macri wanted to receive them at the Casa Rosada presidential offices from Ms Kirchner, while she insisted the handover happen in Congress. Many Argentines viewed the argument as a national embarrassment.

Without mentioning him by name, Ms Kirchner framed the tiff as Mr Macri’s fault. She also criticised a federal court ruling in a case brought by Mr Marci that determined her presidency ended at midnight on Wednesday, saying it would leave Argentina without a president until Mr Macri’s swearing-in at midday on Thursday.

“I can’t talk much because after midnight I’ll turn into a pumpkin,” she joked.

Ms Kirchner talked about “an agenda from the outside being imposed on the region”, apparently referring to the United States and others she sees as enemies of Argentina. During her two terms in power, Ms Kirchner frequently accused other countries of meddling in this South American nation’s affairs, though rarely provided details.

For 12 years Ms Kirchner, and before her, her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, dominated the political landscape. The couple rewrote the country’s social contract, spending heavily on social programmes for the poor while passing liberalising laws, such as legalising gay marriage in 2010.

They also aligned Argentina with socialist leaders like the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Bolivian president Evo Morales, who attended Ms Kirchner’s farewell speech.

“She made me proud to be Argentine for the first time in my life,” said onlooker Pablo Vega. “She defended the interests of the country more than anybody.”

Mr Macri, who ran on free-market ideas, beat Ms Kirchner’s chosen successor by three percentage points in a run-off election last month. The close result underscored the deep polarisation in Argentina, and Ms Kirchner has made clear she will continue to be heard, albeit from the sidelines of power.

The 62-year-old, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term, leaves office with approval ratings around 40 per cent, and some have speculated she might try to run again in 2019.

But just as many Argentines love her, many also loathe her, and the fight over the presidential transition brought out the frustration of detractors.

By Wednesday afternoon, her decision not to attend the inauguration had spawned a trending Twitter hashtag: #CFKVerguenzaMundial, or “Ms Kirchner’s world shame”.