Néstor, in history and in my heart, said Argentine President Alberto Fernández emotionally, along with a video recalling his relationship with his former political mentor, former President Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) on the tenth anniversary of the former president's surprising death.
Alberto Fernández, who was chief of staff during Kirchner's first government, led a ceremony on Tuesday at the Kirchner Cultural Centre (CCK), where a bronze monument was installed with the figure of the former president, the same statue that was installed at the headquarters of Unasur in Ecuador. At the same time, the date served to re-evaluate the impact of his figure and the legacy for Peronism.
For me it is not easy, because in my life there was a before and an after Nestor. I realized that there was another way of doing politics, said the president, without hiding his emotion. He confessed that every time he has to make a decision, it always comes to his mind, what would he do or how would Néstor have acted? The statue of Néstor Kirchner was commissioned in 2014 by Cristina Kirchner and, according to La Nación, the Argentinian Foreign Ministry paid almost US$120,000 for it and then sent it as a gift to Unasur.
There the bronze was in Ecuador for five years, but in September 2019 the statue was removed when the Unasur building was converted into a university campus. In addition, legislators from the government of Lenin Moreno proposed the removal of the statue because they considered it a symbol of corruption in Argentina.
However, when Alberto Fernández became president, he began the process of repatriating the monument, which weighs some six hundred kilos, and some changes were made to it, such as a smile, at the request of his ex-wife and vice-president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The operation is said to have cost some US$145,000, according to announcements in the Buenos Aires press.
However, the ceremony of the decade on 27 October, which was also the first anniversary of the victory of the Fernández/Fernández formula in 2019, was not attended by the vice-president or her son, the influential legislator Máximo Kirchner.
The widow Cristina Kirchner explained in a letter issued on the occasion, but also with explosive comments on the current government and economic-financial situation of Argentina, that as everyone knows, I do not attend public activities or tributes that have to do with that 27 October. Perhaps it is an unconscious mechanism of non-acceptance in the face of the irreversible.
The figure of Néstor Kirchner is a story that is difficult for Argentinians to forget, particularly as he was president after the monumental crisis of 2001. He went from being governor, almost for life, of one of the least populated provinces, Santa Cruz, but immensely rich in resources, to occupying the Casa Rosada after a weak election in 2003.
Néstor Kirchner is a symbol. He is the 'nestornauta', the penguin. Kirchnerist militants, especially the youngest, project into him a symbol of values and attributes with which they identify and to which they aspire: courage, humility, impudence, vivacity, commitment and democratic demands and, ultimately, the rescue of Argentina from its history of failure, explains Argentine analyst Nicolás Solari.
For older people who are critical of politics in the 1970s and Peronism, Néstor Kirchner is an enemy, but kinder than his wife. Perhaps because he is dead or because his government experienced vigorous economic growth after a major crisis. And, for this reason, his presidency benefited those who reject him ideologically, but not economically. For the youngest people he is a mythical figure, typical of the stories they are told, said Gabriela Rodríguez Rial, a political scientist at the University of Buenos Aires.
However, analysts agree that the figure of Néstor Kirchner and his legacy generates unity, at least in his sector. The current Peronist coalition, Frente de Todos, brings together a wide range of sectors of Peronism that in many cases were at odds with Cristina Kirchner, as in the case of Sergio Massa, president of the Chamber of Deputies, or Alberto Fernández himself, but what they had in common was that they were more anti-Christian, and made the distinction between Néstor's government and Cristina's. Therefore the figure of Néstor Kirchner is like a unifying figure within the Frente de Todos, explains political analyst Julio Burdman.
”Although some Kirchnerists have sought to elevate the figure of their leader almost to the level of Juan Domingo Perón, the opposition tends to recall the polarisation that prevailed in the Kirchner era, added to the cases of corruption. However, unlike other currents that have not survived the death of their leader, Kirchnerism has great cohesive power in Argentina: Fernández, its most successful student, is president: Cristina is the current vice-president and their son Máximo Kirchner is the head of the Frente de Todos block in the Chamber of Deputies.