The morning news flashed across television screens announcing the sudden death of a former president.
And it wasn’t just any ex-president who had gone and died, it was only the one who still had all the power behind the scenes of his wife’s incumbent government, former President Nestor Kirchner; dead of a heart attack aged just sixty years old.
Stuck at home waiting for the national census meant the country was left glued to their television sets, stunned by the shocking news.
The head of the Kirchner dynasty had been ill on and off since he left office to make way for his wife in 2007, even undergoing emergency surgery in September this year for a blocked coronary artery; a procedure which left him away from work and the thrones of power for a whole two days. But neither the country nor his family was aware his death was imminent.
Kirchner, who hailed from Rio Gallegos in Patagonia, was governor of the oil and gas rich Santa Cruz province before becoming Head of State in 2003.
‘From here they will take me out dead,’ he said to a friend in La Casa Rosada (The Government House) after assuming the presidency.
He came to power after a turbulent time in Argentine economic and political history. President de la Rúa was helicoptered out of office after the complete and chaotic collapse of the economy at the end of 2001, and then the country saw in the New Year in style with three presidents in one week. Two lasting three days each while President Adolfo Rodriguez Saá threw in the towel after a solid run of eight entire days in the job.
|'Nestor lives on in us. Be Strong Cristina' - Posters covering the streets|
When he took over seventeen months later, Kirchner, who would always have the support of the workers, the unions and the big industries around Buenos Aires, brought a little stability back to the famously unstable nation. The tough economic policies he imposed are widely heralded as saving the country’s economy after its total meltdown in the 2001 crisis when it defaulted on a world record $95bn of debt, and his role one that has been compared to that of Franklin D Roosevelt in the Great Depression of the United States.
President Lula of Brazil, who arrived in Buenos Aires with other Latin American leaders to join the thousands who came singing in the streets at Nestor’s funeral, said ‘He was able to pull Argentina out of the pit it was in.’
He was renowned for his obsession to control the media and was rumoured to receive half hourly updates of every comment any reporter or journalist made, dishing out prizes and punishments as he saw fit.
And he frequently employed the old divide to reign trick, using all the resources of the state to create internal battles to weaken and divide his adversary whenever a sector resisted or rebelled against his policies.
Perhaps the constant accusation of authoritarianism which followed him around like a banker follows a quick buck, was not entirely unjust. But some say that when he ruled like a one-man show, you had to see him as the child of his country. His powerful political rhetoric and dramatic speeches rallied plenty of popular support, and certainly scared off the IMF which backed down when Kirchner refused to give into its post crisis demands.
|Nestor passing the presidential throne to his wife|
baton back to Señora Kirchner in 2015.
That eerie and eventful Wednesday last has changed all that, and the now freshly counted country waits to see what will happen next.