Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, the mayor of Argentinian capital Buenos Aires and a key leader of the right-wing opposition, formally launched his presidential bid on Thursday. The well-hinted-at move makes him the first big hitter to enter what should be a crowded field that will try to unseat the ruling Peronist coalition.
In a television ad calling to end divisions among Argentinians, Mr. Larreta said “the only ones that take advantage of divisions are the ones who created them.” He continued: “We either put an end to those divisions, or those divisions will put an end to Argentina.”
Quiero ser presidente para que juntos terminemos con el odio y transformemos nuestro país para siempre. pic.twitter.com/QhXovKEQ16
— Horacio Rodríguez Larreta (@horaciorlarreta) February 23, 2023
His message can be read as a dig at the Kirchnerist movement that has ruled Argentina in 16 of the last 20 years — many of them marked by conflicts with media, farmers, courts, businesses, and the middle class. It could also be interpreted as a shot against his possible right-of-center competitors, who range from far-right economist Javier Milei to right-wingers within his opposition coalition.
Mr. Larreta is part of a broad center-right alliance that already ruled the country between 2015 and 2019, during the presidency of businessman Mauricio Macri. But he is currently locked in a dispute with members of his own party, led by former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich.
Ms. Bullrich wants to take a hard line against Peronism, unions, crime, protesters, and public spending, while the Buenos Aires mayor is known for a more centrist approach.
If an agreement is not reached before June, when the deadline to register candidates expires, the center-right coalition will have to solve its internal differences in a nationwide primary that is likely to capture many headlines — as the pair are currently seen as favorites to win the national election later this year.
The ruling Peronist coalition, meanwhile, is also embroiled in internal divisions between President Alberto Fernández and Vice President Cristina Kirchner, the latter of whom is seen by many as the administration’s real power broker.
With inflation soaring to almost 100 percent, the center-left government will have an uphill battle at the ballot box in October. But the opposition’s failures during Mr. Macri’s time in office — during which inflation doubled and the country asked for a record bailout from the International Monetary Fund to navigate a massive debt crisis — will also weigh against the center-right’s chances.