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Colleagues' Defection Outrages Argentine Opposition Party


Lawmakers from Argentina's main opposition party vented their anger Thursday at the defection of a dozen colleagues that altered the balance of power in Congress and laid bare a power struggle within the country's broad Peronist movement.

Several Front for Victory (FPV) party legislators loyal to former President Cristina Fernandez accused the breakaway faction of collaborating with the South American country's new leader, Mauricio Macri.

Wednesday's split weakened the FPV and might reduce the influence of legislators and supporters of Fernandez — known locally as Kirchneristas after her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner — within the broad-based Peronist movement as it recovers from November's election defeat.

"They are traitors to the ideals for which they have been fighting for the last 12 years," FPV legislator Maria Teresa Garcia told Radio La Red, taking aim at the group's de facto leaders, Diego Bossio, who used to run the social welfare office, and Oscar Romero.

Romero and Bossio did not respond to requests for comment.

Largest minority

The split means newly elected Macri's "Let's Change" alliance now holds the largest minority in Congress' lower house. That leaves it less likely to need to negotiate with the FPV to make quorum or secure a majority on key votes in his reform agenda.

Javier David, one of the rebel FPV lawmakers, said the group no longer agreed with the FPV's political agenda, which during Fernandez's eight years in power took a more hardened leftist and confrontational stance.

"We don't always want to be in a tug of war," David told Radio La Red, underlining the internal party rifts between Fernandez's allies and more moderate, centrist Peronists. "The election result shows that Peronism needs to return to its roots."

The new bloc would be "responsible opposition," David said, adding there were Fernandez policies that needed defending and that he opposed some of Macri's early policy moves.

Even so, it may serve in the interest of moderate Peronists seeking to gain control of the movement to be sympathetic to Macri's legislative agenda in the near term, said Juan Cruz Diaz, head of the Cefeidas political consultancy.

That could favor Macri if he strikes a debt deal with U.S. creditors, which would require congressional approval.

"If the Macri government fails badly early on, it will be very difficult to move away from Kirchnerismo," Diaz said. "A somewhat successful Macri government gives this movement time to consolidate."

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