20 de noviembre de 2019
Hispanic World

Mauricio and Alberto, the 60-year-olds vying for power in Argentina

By Rodrigo Garcia

 Argentine President Mauricio Macri (l), who is running for re-election, and his main challenger, Alberto Fernandez (r), at a debate on Oct. 20, 2019, in Buenos Aires. EFE-EPA/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

Argentine President Mauricio Macri (l), who is running for re-election, and his main challenger, Alberto Fernandez (r), at a debate on Oct. 20, 2019, in Buenos Aires. EFE-EPA/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

By Rodrigo Garcia

Buenos Aires, Oct 22 (efe-epa).- An engineer and an attorney are the main presidential hopefuls in the run-up to the Argentine election. Mauricio Macri, age 60 and the current head of state, and Peronist Alberto Fernandez, also 60, are vying to lead the country, which is going through crisis after crisis.

Macri was born Feb. 8, 1959, and Fernandez on April 2 in that year, but they have little else in common as they face off at the polls next Sunday with the latter as the clear favorite, according to recent voter surveys.

The son of an Italian immigrant and an Argentine woman of Spanish origin, the current president, the oldest of six children, went to elementary and high school at the Colegio Cardenal Newman school, one of the country's most select private schools, ultimately earning a degree in civil engineering from the Universidad Catolica Argentina.

His youth was marked by the comings and goings of his father, Franco Macri, one of Argentina's most powerful businessmen, who from early on wanted to introduce his oldest child to corporate activities and make him a successful businessman in his influential firms.

And he achieved that, but not without difficulty. For years, Mauricio headed assorted organizations and in 1991, at age 32, he was kidnapped for two weeks until his father negotiated with his captors and they freed him after receiving a ransom of $6 million.

Fernandez, meanwhile, was born to Celia Perez - the sister of the personal photographer for former President Juan Domingo Peron - and her first husband, although he has always considered her second husband to be his true father, Judge Carlos Pelagio Galindez, the son of a provincial senator with the Radical Civic Union, a party that historically opposed the Peronist government.

He received his early schooling at two different schools and went to high school at the public Mariano Moreno High School, where he took his first steps in politics as a delegate for the Union of High School Students, which had Peronist leanings.

At the beginning of the 1980s, he received a law degree from the University of Buenos Aires and during the 1976-1983 dictatorship he came to head the youth wing of the Constitutional Nationalist Party founded by rightist Alberto Asseff.

Macri, however, did not make his first foray into politics until he was 36, when - to the disgust of his father - he abandoned the family businesses and won the election to head the Boca Juniors soccer club, which under his leadership through 2007 won 17 national titles, emerging as the team's most successful chairman.

In 2003, Macri used that fame to move into politics, creating an electoral coalition of assorted groups to compete for the office of Buenos Aires mayor, although he did not win, but two years later he was elected to congress and ultimately to the capital mayorship two years after that, that post being a springboard to the presidency.

Fernandez, meanwhile, was cabinet chief during the presidencies of Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Christina Fernandez (2007-2015), to whom he is not related despite their identical surnames, after serving in assorted posts in the government of Raul Alfonsin and Carlos Menem.

He also had worked as a law professor and served as a lawmaker in Buenos Aires in the early 2000s.

But he resigned from Cristina Fernandez's administration just a few months into her presidency and came into conflict with her on an ongoing basis until last May, when the former president made a surprise announcement saying she had proposed Alberto as a presidential candidate with her in the VP slot.

She said that the distancing between herself and Fernandez had led to Macri's victory in the 2015 election.

During the present campaign, both men are convinced that their ideologies and approaches to governing are the correct ones for Argentina. Macri is not giving in and Fernandez, who already feels himself to be president, say many, is promising to pull the country out of the economic "disaster" Macri has caused, just as claims he did when he served under Kirchner.

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