Alberto Fernández, the socialist outgoing president of Argentina, lambasted his Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (no relation) on Wednesday for allegedly demanding “obedience” in his first interview since his Peronist coalition lost the presidential election to outsider libertarian Javier Milei on Sunday.
Fernández gave the interview to Uruguay’s El Observador and did not mention Milei at all during the nearly hour-long exchange with journalist Óscar González Oro, who described himself as a longtime friend of the president’s. The president repeatedly condemned his predecessor, center-right former President Mauricio Macri, and returned on multiple occasions to his poor relationship with Fernández de Kirchner, rebutting her public complaints that the president would not “listen” to her.
Tensions between Fernández and other junior members of the socialist Peronist coalition and the power brokers of “Kirchnerism,” as the vice president’s loyalists are called, were an “open secret” for much of Alberto Fernández’s presidency, Argentine media noted on Wednesday. Following the complete collapse of that socialist movement’s leadership, however, in the face of a landslide loss against Milei, those rifts are becoming more public.
Milei became president-elect of Argentina on Sunday with about 55 percent of the vote, a nearly 12-percent lead over the Peronist candidate, Sergio Massa – Fernández’s minister of economics. Argentina is currently facing the worst economic crisis of its modern history, defined by inflation fates of over 140 percent, double-digit poverty levels, and growing joblessness and social unrest. Milei has held only one public position in his lifetime, winning a seat in the Argentine Congress in 2021 shortly after he established his explicitly libertarian political party, Liberty Advances.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner served as president of Argentina between 2007 and 2015. The wife of late former President Néstor Kirchner, Fernández de Kirchner served as first lady for four years before becoming president herself. A hard leftist with close friendships with late dictator Hugo Chávez and corrupt current Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Fernández de Kirchner is widely considered the most powerful leftist in Argentina and the power broker responsible for bringing Fernández into the presidency.
In his interview on Wednesday, Fernández suggested that Fernández de Kirchner routinely disrespected his authority as president of Argentina.
“I’m amused because the Argentina media say that I was a puppet, and it turns out that the puppet is the only one who ended up confronting Cristina, is the only one,” Fernández told El Observador. “I was not a very good puppet and that was the problem. And the complaint of ‘they don’t listen to me’ … it’s not that I did not listen, I listened … what happened was that I didn’t always agree.”
González Oro asked Fernández directly about comments the vice president made distancing herself from the ongoing economic crisis, declaring, “I have nothing to do with that, they did not want to listen to me.”
“I think she confuses things,” Fernández replied. “Listen, she was listened to, she was read, she sent public letters, she made declarations. And I also listened to her in private.”
“What is the truth is that I did not obey her in everything that she would have wanted to be obeyed in,” he continued. “But it was not my mission to obey her and she knew that from day one. I was not there to obey her.”
Fernández also appeared to make multiple veiled slights against Fernández de Kirchner throughout the interview, noting repeatedly that he currently has no criminal charges for corruption to his name.
“You are talking to a president who has never been accused of corruption and is leaving the government with the same net worth that he came in with,” Fernández noted. “I have no accounts, nothing abroad … in our government we started the most public works projects, 7,000 public works projects … no accusations of corruption.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Fernández repeated, “I am not taking a single pencil from the government,” and claimed that he had not used any public funds for his wardrobe.
“This suit, I paid for this suit, nobody paid for it; this tie, I paid for it, the state did not pay for it,” he emphasized.
Fernández de Kirchner has a long history of accusations of corruption, including a criminal conviction in 2022 for giving a friend 51 public works contracts and defrauding Argentina for upwards of $1 billion. She was sentenced to six years in prison, but served none of them on the grounds of legal immunity granted to the vice president of the Republic.
As president, Fernández de Kirchner was notorious for spending lavishly on fashion statements, wearing “three to five outfits a day” and maintaining a wardrobe worth over a million pesos in 2008 – about $333,000 at the time, but $2,805.35 today.”
The Argentine outlet Infobae noted on Monday that the Kirchners – now including son Máximo – had taken a backseat in Massa’s campaigning. It remained unclear to the public if Massa sought the distance or if the Kirchners had voluntarily chosen to keep away in light of their history of corruption and unpopularity. During the last presidential debate between Massa and Milei, Massa notably told his rival, “they had their chance, now it’s you or me.”
Aside from his concession speech and a cryptic poem published on social media on Tuesday, Massa has not made any public statements in the aftermath of his historic defeat.