The Kirchners – first Néstor and then his wife, Cristina Fernández – have occupied Argentina’s Casa Rosada presidential palace since 2003. Could son Maximo, a rising political star, keep the family in power beyond 2016, when Cristina’s second term ends?
BUENOS AIRES – He cultivates a low profile, doesn't give interviews and never speaks in public. And yet Maximo Kirchner, 34, the eldest son of the Argentine president, is considered to be his mother's right-hand man. President Cristina Kirchner has admitted that Maximo "has always been her favorite," and her daughter, Florencia, 21, her late husband's favorite.
Since the death in 2010 of Néstor Kirchner, late husband of Cristina and president from 2003 to 2007, Maximo has appeared increasingly at Mrs. Kirchner's side, apparently filling the void left by his father, who governed in partnership with his wife. Though he has a larger build than his late father, Maximo has inherited Néstor Kirchner's gaze and casual dress sense, which contrasts with his mother's luxurious tastes.
Maximo first entered politics back in 2003, when he launched a youth movement to support the Kirchner government. The movement is called La Cámpora, after Hector Cámpora, a left-wing president elected in 1973. Cámpora was a supporter of Gen. Juan Domingo Perón, who had been exiled 18 years earlier. Campora resigned 49 days after being elected, clearing a path for Perón – upon returning from exile – to be elected with 62% of votes.
In the wake of Néstor Kirchner's death, La Cámpora mobilized hundreds of demonstrators, assuring his widow of their unconditional support. For her second term, Cristina Kirchner has placed her trust in this new generation: her cabinet chief, Juan Manuel Abal Medina, 43, is the nephew of one of the founders of Montoneros, the Peronist guerrilla group in the 60s and 70s. He is the son of one of Perón's closest representatives. The president's deputy ministers of the economy and justice also hail from the La Cámpora movement.
La Cámpora currently holds eight seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Argentine National Congress, and more than 20 seats in regional legislative councils. Many of the La Cámpora militants work for government ministries or head public companies, such as Aerolineas Argentinas, a state run airline. The support Kirchner has received from the next generation has provoked tensions with the Confederación General de Trabajo (CGT) trade union. Hugo Moyano, director of the CGT, called La Cámpora's members a bunch of "rich kids."
"A smart kid"
Anibal Fernandez, senator and ex-cabinet chief for the Kirchners, brushes off the idea that Maximo enjoys "growing influence" in public affairs, describing him instead as "a smart kid, an activist who has earned the right to give his opinion and who is in charge of a movement that includes lots of remarkable politicians."
After abandoning his law studies, Maximo settled in Río Gallegos, the capital of the Santa Cruz region in the south of Argentina and his father's home town. From there he administers the family fortune. He travels to Buenos Aires regularly to meet with Cristina's inner circle of advisors, and continues to oversee the running of La Cámpora from behind the scenes.
Rumors suggest he doesn't have a good relationship with the vice-president, Amado Boudou. Maximo's hermit-esque nature clashes with the joviality of this ex-minister of the economy. Boudou, 50, is of French descent and was quite conservative in his youth, but now likes to give the impression he's a rocker: playing the guitar in meetings and riding a Harley Davidson.
Recently, Boudou had to assume a far more hands-on role, replacing the president while she recovered from a Jan. 4 thyroid operation. In late December Cristina Kirchner was mistakenly diagnosed with cancer. She resumed her position earlier this week.
The Argentine Constitution prevents Cristina Kirchner, who was reelected last October, from setting her sights on a third consecutive term. Argentina's next presidential election is set for 2015. Some in the media, however, are already speculating about the possibility that Maximo could run in the 2013 general elections, using this as a springboard to the presidency. Only time will tell whether Argentines really do like to keep everything in the family.
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