The Argentine president's secret weapon? A super-charged youth movement.
La Cámpora, a political youth movement – 30,000-strong and mostly under 30 – is one of Fernandez de Kirchner's most significant political tools. But they stand out for more than just solidarity.
Moments after Argentina’s Congress passed a historic bill in April to nationalize the Spanish majority-owned oil company, YPF, a banner taking up half of the Congressional chamber was unfurled from the balcony. It depicted former President Néstor Kirchner with his fist raised in the air victoriously.Skip to next paragraph
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The same banner was on view just a week earlier during a rally attended by 100,000 activists in support of “the project” – a left-wing political ideology implemented by Mr. Kirchner before his 2010 death, and continued today by his wife, Argentina’s current president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Both scenes were the work of La Cámpora, a political youth movement – 30,000-strong and mostly under the age of 30 – whose support for the president is unwavering.
A continuation of the Peronist Youth to which Cristina and Néstor belonged in the 1970s, La Cámpora emphasizes Juan Domingo Perón’s fight for the poor and the Kirchners’ policies of social inclusion and state intervention.
But the group stands out for more than just its forthright display of solidarity: members are appointed high-ranking government positions, it is spearheaded by the Kirchners’ son, Máximo, and it is viewed as one of Ms. Fernández’s most significant political tools – one she desperately needs right now.
‘Soldiers of Cristina’
Fernández won a second term last October with 54 percent of the vote, but her approval rating has dropped to 39 percent, according to polls.
Argentina’s middle classes took to the streets in June to protest against alleged corruption – including a scandal involving the vice president – the soaring inflation rate, and new restrictions on buying dollars. The head of umbrella union CGT, Hugo Moyano – once a loyal supporter of the Kirchners – also formalized his split with Fernández during a rally last week, accusing her of “overwhelming arrogance.”
Today, Fernández’s bedrock of support is represented by la juventud or “the youth” and, specifically, by La Cámpora.
The support the group drums up represents a “theatrical fanaticism” which a “disjointed” opposition cannot replicate, says Lucho Bugallo, founder of the website Argentina contra K, Argentina against Kirchner.
Unlike the Young Republicans in America, a grassroots organization that backs the Republican Party, La Cámpora is personalist. Just as the Peronist Youth fought for Perón’s return from exile, La Cámpora activists call themselves “soldiers of Cristina.”
‘A pillar’ of Kirchnerism
La Cámpora is named after former President Héctor Cámpora, who resigned after just 49 days in 1973 to facilitate Perón’s return to power. Its birth can be traced back to the economic crisis of 2001 where the saying Que se vayan todos – Away with them all – was employed by protesters who wanted to purge Argentine politics of its corrupt old-blood.
When Néstor Kirchner became president in 2003, he committed to building a “generational bridge” between the government and young people, delegating the task to his only son, Máximo.
Under Fernández, Kirchnerism – as her and Néstor’s governing philosophy is called – has institutionalized that bridge and made youth one of the pillars of its political model.
Fernández’s alignment with the youth has altered the traditional foundation of Peronist support – the trade unions. Her running battle with Mr. Moyano had intensified in June with a national strike by truckers, which called on Fernández to raise the income tax floor.
The rupture with Moyano came after the death of Néstor, under whose presidency his political influence had increased. But Fernández saw his power as excessive and cut his ties with Kirchnerism.
“The president has distanced herself from the unions in favor of a new loyal base whose ideas are entirely allied with the government,” Leandro Bullor, an economic historian at the University of Buenos Aires, says.
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