Tens of thousands of supporters packed Argentina's most famous square, Plaza de Mayo on Wednesday night to say goodbye to President Cristina Fernandez, who lauded her government's achievements while blasting the incoming administration in the same tones she aimed at opponents throughout her eight years in office.
Last but not least, in her usual irony Cristina Fernandez she said the party and speech had to be over before midnight, since after that I'll turn into a pumpkin, in reference to a magistrate's ruling which said her presidency was over at midnight Wednesday, putting an end to the dispute over Thursday's power transfer ceremony.
But before addressing the crowd from a stage outside Government House (Casa Rosada), the president led a thank you ceremony with her cabinet, government officials, lawmakers, governors and supporters of her administration, plus visiting Bolivian president Evo Morales, for the unveiling of a bust dedicated to her late husband and president Nestor Kirchner 82003/2007) whom she succeeded two consecutive periods.
Outside as blue and white Argentine flags waved and people cheered on a balmy night, Fernandez gave a speech that was both a recap of her years in power and a clear sign that she does not plan to make things easy for President-elect Mauricio Macri, who will be inaugurated this Thursday. The outgoing president also underlined that she will be around in 2019, to check on her successor's performance, a veiled message to her followers about a possible comeback.
I can look straight into the eyes of workers, students, manufacturers, scientists...let' see if this is the case in four years time said Cristina Fernandez who added I don't look into the eyes of the young because in them I see myself-
The outgoing president addressed the crowd on Plaza de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires amid widespread criticism for her decision not to attend Macri's inauguration.
The two spent much of the last ten days bickering over where the presidential baton and sash would be handed over. Macri wanted to receive them in the Casa Rosada Government House from Fernandez, while she insisted the handover happen in Congress. Many Argentines viewed the argument as a national embarrassment.
Without mentioning him by name, Cristina Fernandez framed the dispute as Macri's fault. She also criticized the Wednesday federal court ruling in a case brought by Macri that determined her presidency ended at midnight, saying it would leave Argentina without a president until Macri's swearing-in at midday Thursday.
I can't talk much because after midnight I'll turn into a pumpkin, she joked.
Likewise Cristina Fernandez talked about an agenda from the outside being imposed on the region, apparently referring to the United States and others she sees as threats to Argentina. During her two terms in power, Cristina Fernandez frequently accused other countries of meddling in Argentina.
For 12 years, Cristina Fernandez, and before her, late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, dominated the political landscape. The couple rewrote the country's social contract, spending heavily on social programs for the poor while passing liberalizing laws, such as legalizing gay marriage in 2010.
They also aligned Argentina with socialist leaders like the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Brazil's Lula da Silva and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who attended her farewell speech.
Macri, who ran on free-market ideas, beat Cristina Fernandez's chosen successor by three percentage points in a runoff election last month. The close result underscored the deep polarization in Argentina.
The 62-year-old, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term, leaves office with approval ratings around 40%, but with a divided public opinion: just as many Argentines love her, many also loathe her and the fight over the presidential transition did not contribute to build bridges.