Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said on Thursday she was not desperate to be president again, adding to speculation over whether the widowed Peronist leader will seek re-election in October.
Center-left Fernandez has a big lead over opposition candidates in the polls, but she is keeping the country guessing about her plans.
“I’m not dying to be president again. I’ve already given all that I had to give ... I’m making an immense personal and even physical effort to continue moving forward,” Fernandez said in an emotional speech to supporters at a rally.
Fernandez’s husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, died suddenly in October last year and she continues to dress in black to show her mourning. She refers to Kirchner constantly and still gets teary-eyed from time to time.
Fernandez’s health has also raised questions about her political future. She suffers from low blood pressure, which has forced her to cancel recent trips and engagements.
Argentina’s presidential hopefuls have to announce their candidacies by late next month for the Oct. 23 vote.
A decision not to run by Fernandez would set off a fractious nomination dispute within the Peronist movement, a coalition of disparate political and labor groups.
In her speech, Fernandez took aim at the traditionally Peronist labor unions for putting their own demands ahead of the nation’s interests, saying she would not accept “extortion” from labor leaders or big business.
Unions calling for wage hikes of as much as 35 percent this year — above privately estimated inflation of about 25 percent — have held strikes in the key grains sector and more recently in the energy industry. Refinery workers launched a nationwide strike on Thursday to push their wage demands.
Argentina’s most powerful union boss Hugo Moyano last month called on Fernandez to run again — with a union leader for running mate — but she was noncommittal and said unions should focus less on politics and more on labor negotiations.
“I’m tired of those who say they help and that Cristina’s name should live on, and then the next day they do exactly the opposite,” she said on Thursday. “We all need to understand that the country’s success doesn’t depend on the president alone. We need responsibility and maturity.”
Pascual Albanese, a political analyst at the Institute for Strategic Planning, said her comments should be understood as a warning to Moyano for not heeding her calls for a more moderate stance on wage demands.