Three years after the death of one of the key politicians to understand the history of Córdoba

It was roughly 8 p.m. on September 15, 2018, when a next-generation Volvo pickup literally slammed into the back of a Mercedes Benz truck trailer.

The driver of the truck died instantly and the truck driver and the woman who was traveling with him were admitted with minor injuries, but out of danger.

Who died in this way was José Manuel de la Sota, who was in the process of reassembling a presidential candidacy, this time with the consent of a sector of Kirchnerism and the business community that had supported him in the last two decades.

“Puentes” was to be called the television program that he had produced and hosted to be broadcast on the news channel Crónica TV. That cycle was to become – according to the author’s dream – the basis of the political project with which he aspired to fight for the presidency.

Fate would have it not and his political partner since 1998, the current governor Juan Schiaretti, assumed full leadership of the Peronism of Córdoba, deepening its status as a provincial party.

A singular character

Talkative, talkative, intelligent, cultured and deeply contradictory. That’s how De la Sota was. A member of his immediate environment made a warning about who will be his political boss: “Do not stay with the morning coffee from” El Gallego “because until nightfall he can have three more and always change his mind. Even take the opposite path ”.

Everything happened to him. He lost an election for mayor of Córdoba and two for governor, but surely nothing damaged him as much as the death of one of his three daughters, a subject he almost never spoke about in public.

Having participated in the Peronist Renovation in the ’80s made him a national leader of the Justicialist movement. He was a vice candidate of the formula led by Antonio Cafiero. Against all odds, that pair fell without mitigating against Carlos Menem-Eduardo Duhalde.

Later he became Argentine ambassador to Brazil, during the first stretch of Menem’s presidency, and some years later he retired slamming the door. Then he approached the Riojan again and it should not be forgotten that he sponsored the presentation of the re-election project before the federal judge of Córdoba, Ricardo Bustos Fierro. That request was first accepted but then crashed down. The person who had signed the document had been Olga Riutort, at that time the wife of the Justicialist leader.

Perhaps the most important day of his political career was July 12, 1999, when he took office for the first time as governor. Then he would be reelected two more times, always alternating power with Schiaretti.

In 1999, Peronism returned to provincial power, after the last victory in 1973, led by Ricardo Obregón Cano.

That July 12, the new provincial president was sworn in and a couple of hours later organized an assumption party at the General Paz Military High School, which had the pretense of a celebration of some European monarchy.

A red carpet marked the way for the group of people escorting the head of the
Provincial executive who retraced his steps with President Menem and behind a procession made up of family members and future officials.

A pompous lunch was the frame of reference for that first day, in which he was
accompanied by about a thousand notable people from the province and the country, among whom were businessmen, priests, political leaders, artists and professionals of all colors and fur.

The renowned event organizer Ramón Pico was hopping around organizing the tables, trying not to miss anything on the tables, where a typical Cordovan menu was served, with a goat dish as the star.

Time to rule

The party passed and it was time to govern in that first term. He applied his campaign promise, which later became hell for all capital mayors: the 30 percent tax cut.

In fact, it must be remembered that this promise made him poor: he had lost the governorship twice to Eduardo Angeloz (1987 and 1991) and before the capital administration (he was defeated by Ramón Mestre Sr., in 1983).

With the promise of the tax cut, he won the election over Ramón Mestre Sr., who was trying his second term.

From his management we must remember the hundreds of schools he built and an exemplary and unprecedented judicial reform, with the Council of the Magistracy at the top. This practically guaranteed the total independence of the Justice. The province had become an example for the country.

However, the governor was scared of its creation and with a stroke of the pen he threw down everything he had done and declared a judicial emergency. There he put the judges he wanted and the prosecutors he wanted and then he reopened the doors of the Council of the Magistracy, although with a different tone. Suspicions flew overhead, which was repeated when he prompted the reform
structural of the province with what was called the law of the New State, which promoted a phenomenal adjustment. This law was known as the “Bodega law”, alluding to the last name of the judge legislator who voted for it, which caused a general haze in the world of politics.

Constitutional reform through, promoted important changes such as replacing the chambers of deputies and senators with a unicameral system, until now criticized.

He tried to open Córdoba to the world, became an axis in politics and gave a lot of play to his collaborators, among whom was his wife, Olga Riutort, whom the officials (from ministers downwards) feared. There is an urban myth of an alleged beating of a cabinet member …

Riutort categorically denies it every time she is consulted on the point, but very few believe her.

There were men with unusual power, such as Domingo Carbonetti, who held the title of State Attorney. He lived in Bell Ville and that city benefited greatly. That is why it was called “Bellvillaco”, an ironic allusion to Anillaco, Menem’s hometown, which also had an incredible take-off in those years.

The launch of the quasi-currency called Lecor (each of those papers bore the signature of the then economic minister, Esteban Domina), brought him some solutions to weather the crisis, but also suspicions that involved Riutort.

De la Sota showed off his relationships with conservative Brazilian politicians and put the entire investment plan in the hands of Horacio Miró, another deep-sea fish.

His relationship with the Casa Rosada was always more than correct, even when
Fernando de la Rúa came to power. Until what was palpitating happened: the country entered a formidable collapse and we lived through an economic and social crisis, perhaps never seen before. And here you have to give De la Sota the right: while the country was tumbling, Córdoba was not covered by water. He suffered but stood up. And then it was not scorched earth. He was able to recover, and that’s partly to his credit.

Later, the people recognized him at the polls and he won the provincial election again, in 2003. The main opposition focus was in the city of Córdoba. This because he promoted his lieutenant governor Germán Kammerath, as a candidate for mayor. The conservative, now macrista behind the scenes, defeated Mario Negri and led one of the scariest municipal governments in memory.

In 2003, his candidate for lieutenant governor was Juan Schiaretti, who had served as Minister of Production. He won comfortably, despite suspicions of corruption that never came to fruition in Justice.

De la Sota won again in 2011. With Schiaretti they formed a monolithic society. The first was governor three times and the second is on his third term.

He was preparing his presidential candidacy when he was killed in that strange accident. He was one of the two most important politicians in Córdoba in the last 50 years. The other one is probably Angeloz.

The Cordobans practically took the Justicialist leader from the scaffold of the defeats and placed him on a pedestal reserved for people they remember with respect and in some cases with admiration. An unexpected accident took the life of a politician who already felt ripe to start a new national dream.

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