As George W. Bush was landing in Uruguayan soil, Hugo Chávez was giving a two hours speech across the river Rio de la Plata.
The stadium of Ferrocarril Oeste in Buenos Aires gathered around 20 thousands spectators. Most of them from left leaning parties, some close to Néstor Kirchner´s government some to Chávez´s (and not too close to Kirchner).
Just as expected Chávez provided a potent, lengthy and accessible speech to the masses of militants. There were, of course, direct references to Bush, particularly when Chávez called him a “political cadaver”, “it no longer smells to sulfur, it smells to cadaver.”
Chávez made it clear that the rally was made to “say no to the presence of the imperial chief.” Kirchner was not present, nor anyone from his cabinet, except the General Secretary of the Government who was monitoring everything, being Kirchner`s eyes. There were other politicians closely related to Kirchner, one of the was former Foreign Affairs minister and current deputy, Rafael Bielsa. Also in attendance the leaders of several “piqueteros” (groups of people who picket roads to protest, fashionable method since the last crisis). All these groups are close allies of Kirchner.
However, as it is pointed in Clarín, there were other “piqueteros” that are in direct opposition to the government but they are pro-Chávez. In the last rally that Chávez did in Argentina (in November 2005, during the Summit of the Americas) when the Venezuelan president mentioned Kirchner there was whistling coming from the crowd. This time there was a pact so Chávez could easily mentioned the name of the Argentinian leader without receiving disapproving gestures. The flags of Evita and Peron in one side, and the ones of Marx and Che Guevara on the other lived peacefully during the entire event.
It is not clear who paid the cost of renting the stadium (around US$ 17000) but the Argentinian government supplied the logistics to make it happen.
Not everyone was happy
Just as Chávez appeared to garner a lot of support, there was a clear discontent with the entire political opposition (center left, center and, of course, the right parties).
One of these was Roberto Lavagna, former Economics Minister of Kirchner and now a presidential candidate, who said that Kirchner cannot control Chávez: “The Government cannot control Chávez whem he is in Argentinian ground, which shows lack of power, or worse, that the Government thinks just like Chávez and it does not dare to say it, which shows lack of courage.”
One of the harshest criticism came from center-left presidential candidate Elisa Carrió, who called Chávez a “fascist”.
The action that particularly irritated Argentinians was the presence of more than 300 armed men from Venezuela to provide security to the rally. Kirchner remained silent to this action.