BUENOS AIRES – Argentine Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez on Tuesday repudiated the violent police repression of an opposition protest over suspicions of electoral fraud in the northern province of Tucuman.
“I condemn repressive acts under any circumstances,” said Fernandez at his daily press conference.
The protests followed Sunday’s gubernatorial election in Tucuman province, where figures based on 81 percent of the vote showed the candidate of President Cristina Fernandez’s Front for Victory winning by a substantial margin.
Amid allegations of fraud and reports that ballot boxes were burned, the tabulation was halted.
Cabinet chief Fernandez (no relation to the president) said that “I was sleeping” late Monday night when police began using tear gas and rubber bullets against the thousands of people who had gathered before the headquarters of the provincial government in the city of San Miguel de Tucuman to demand transparency in the vote counting process.
Despite saying he did not know the details of the situation, Fernandez questioned the stance of the Tucuman police, which clashes with the policy of the current president and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, not to suppress demonstrations.
Although the authorities have not made the official tally public, Argentine media say between 10 and 20 people were injured in the incidents.
At the point the count was stopped, Front for Victory standard-bearer Juan Manzur had 54.42 percent of the vote, almost 14 percentage points ahead of rival Jose Cano, representing an opposition alliance.
Anibal Fernandez said Tuesday that the four people arrested for burning ballot boxes are linked to Cano, who has refused to concede to Manzur.
He also suggested that the incidents occurring over the past few hours in Tucuman were planned with outside help.
“There is a well thought-out program, it’s a system prepared outside our country to create a bad incident and to disturb things. They were talking about it all week, there’s going to be fraud, there’s going to be fraud, and since they lost they are complaining without any proof. So, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.
The opposition in Tucuman is demanding a manual recount of every ballot cast on Sunday.