10 February 2007

The Socialist, the independent and the two little Radicals

Hermes Binner's governor candidacy was launched last Thursday. So far the one and only Socialist in Argentina with chances to become a governor in the foreseeable future has gotten away with everything — he ignored the demands of his Radical Party allies to name his companion (the vice-governor candidate), stubbornly ignored the appointment of Carlos Fascendini, got Fascendini to submit, step aside and sing Binner's praises, and gathered the support of a whole lot of Radicals, including the mayors and communal authorities of many a small town in the heart of Santa Fe, where the battle may be thoughest (Binner has Rosario, with more than one third of Santa Fe's population, practically in his pocket already, and Santa Fe City is going that way too).

Topping it off, he got Griselda Tessio, a respectable federal prosecutor (she's just resigned) and a daughter of the last Radical Party governor of Santa Fe, to be his running mate, and he launched the campaign, with her on one side and Fascendini on the other, in a meeting in Esperanza, the prosperous city in central Santa Fe where both Fascendini and Tessio were born.

Esperanza was the first town in Argentina to be founded as an agricultural colony with immigrants from Europe, sponsored by an official colonization program. Colonies like this brought waves of Germans, French and Swiss to Entre Ríos, while Justo José de Urquiza was the local caudillo and the President of the Argentine Confederation, and then to the central area of Santa Fe, which is dotted with little towns. The name "Esperanza" even looks intentionally auspicious — it means "hope". Nowadays Esperanza is the head town of the Las Colonias Department, a rich area that produces a sizable proportion of Argentina's dairies.

A faction of the Radicals, led by a couple of political parasites who've never been elected to anything or had any political power outside the party bureaucracy, are against Binner and Tessio. They need Binner but they wanted their own candidate — first they appointed Fascendini, now they want another one elected in primaries. They may take the issue to court so that Binner and Tessio are forbidden to use the name "Progressive Front" in their ballots. Strictly speaking, Binner did violate an agreement with the Radicals; it turned out OK, the campaign is going ahead and all, but the formal Radical Party structures did not accept the fait accompli.

Santa Fe's Radicals have a tendency to split over small matters, basically following individual leaderships. Will these guys, with legal but not consensual authority, end up proclaiming a governor candidate of their own? The poor guy would be doomed to wither in solitude and lose, but he would divert some votes from the Socialist-Radical alliance. The Peronist candidates are more than a few votes behind, but not impossibly far behind.

The Peronist provincial government has started throwing money around — millions and millions to repair schools, to upgrade hospitals and healthcare centers, to pave roads, to beautify small towns — things that should've been done during the three years since this administration took office, in a consistent, regular way, not as a extraordinary pre-electoral show. It's disgusting, this spectacle of a governor and officials appearing in a virtual partisan rally to deliver a large check to a hospital so it can buy a few shiny expensive items while HIV+ patients can't get their drug cocktails in that very same hospital because the provincial bureaucrat in charge is on vacation, and while the healthcare centers that send patients to the hospital don't have computers, full-time nurses, or a regular supply of toilet paper.

I can't say for sure this is going to change if the politicians change; I can't believe it might be worse than this.

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