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Argentine election front-runner criticizes leftist gov’ts

November 11, 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Opposition candidate Mauricio Macri, the front-runner in Argentina’s impending presidential runoff, criticized leftist governments in South America on Tuesday while also promising that he would govern for the common good.

The business-friendly Macri described his vision of governing as “21st century development,” contrasting it to the “21st century socialism” espoused by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro as well as their regional allies.

In casting himself in such a light, Macri continued with his campaign strategy of promising both major economic reforms to address Argentina’s myriad economic ills and common-sense government.

“Our ideology is to resolve problems and get things done,” Macri told a group of foreign reporters.

That message appears to be working well for Macri, who shook up the political landscape with a much-better than expected finish in the Oct. 25 first round of the presidential election. Macri, the outgoing mayor of Buenos Aires, got 34 percent support, compared to 37 percent for governing party candidate Daniel Scioli, the chosen successor of President Cristina Fernandez.

For months, many polls had suggested Scioli, governor of the vast Buenos Aires province, would win by 10 or more points. Instead, the close finish forced a runoff on Nov. 22.

Several polls over the last week now give Macri the edge. One poll, published over the weekend by consulting firm Management & Fit, said 52 percent of voters surveyed supported Macri while 44 percent backed Scioli. The poll interviewed by phone 2,400 people Nov. 1-5 and had a margin for error of two percentage points.

Despite differing ideologies, Macri said he would work to build ties with left-leaning leaders like Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Neighboring Brazil is Argentina’s top trading partner and rival in everything from national soccer teams to regional influence in South America.

Macri said it would “be easier” for Rousseff to work with him than Fernandez, a clear dig at the outgoing president, who over eight years in power has frequently fought with foreign leaders, political opponents at home and a group of creditors in the U.S.

Macri said he opposed efforts by leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales to pave the way to be re-elected several times, arguing that changes of power are good for building strong institutions.

He also expressed concern for opposition leaders in Venezuela who have been jailed under Maduro’s socialist administration. Macri said that if such leaders were not liberated, as Argentina’s president he would push to remove Venezuela from the South American trading bloc known as Mercosur.