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Who is Claudio Vidal, the controversial trade unionist who ended 32 years of Kirchner governments in Santa Cruz

Born in Comodoro Rivadavia but raised in the province that he will govern since December, he conquered the union of oil workers and from there projected his political influence.

After more than three decades, Kirchnerism was displaced from power in Santa Cruz, their own land. A power that knew how to build even at the cost of reform the provincial constitution to guarantee indefinite re-electionthe slogan law trap and own majority in the local Legislature. claudio vidal, the general secretary of the oil union, was responsible for putting an end to that hegemony. From the most important union in the south, he built a path that led him to break his alliance with Alicia Kirchner and cement a political career in the towns of the northern province, which a week ago gave him victory as governor.

Claudio Vidal was born in an oil city, Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut province. However, at three years his very low-income family moved to Río Gallegos, and since then he never left Santa Cruz soil.

That poverty in which his parents lived left a mark that lives on in his speeches: “It hurts me to see how poor Santa Cruz is”, repeat. And he gets angry at the contradiction of such a rich soil, with oil and minerals, on which poor families live.

“Of arms to take” as defined by those who had to negotiate with him on various occasions since the oil activity, Vidal entered the activity at the age of 18 and immediately began to participate in union life. His career in the most important union in Santa Cruz was brilliant: at age 33, in 2013, he became secretary general. Since then, he has made the hydrocarbons sector his main electoral platform.

Vidal forged his first electoral platform within the Santacruceño Front for Victory, the party that saw the light of day at the hands of Néstor Kirchner, but in 2018 he created We are Energy to Renew Santa Cruz (SER) which served as submotto within the space with which – the following year – Alicia Kirchner achieved her second term as governor.

Without experience in political life, nor having ever participated in an election, that year he obtained 24,625 votes (14.57%). Her numbers were decisive for Alicia to retain power. The number, however, alerted their own and others.

From an oil matrix, the new SER party had an important political “godfather” in the provincial history: Sergio Acevedo the former governor of Santa Cruz and former head of the SIDE during the first months of the presidency of Néstor Kirchner.

The former governor, a native of Pico Truncado – an oil city located in the north of the province – was a key player in Vidal’s growth. And of the decision he made in 2021: to break with the Frente de Todos and contest the midterm elections with SER.

“We always disagreed with many of Alicia Kirchner’s policies, when we went with them within the same space we did not agree on everything, so when we saw that the management was not good, we decided to leave and compete on our own,” he explained then to Clarion one of Vidal’s most trusted men.

His party won Kirchnerism for the first time in 2021, and Vidal was second behind Juntos por el Cambio, who had been a candidate for deputy for Roxana Reyes. The participation of the oil tanker broke with the traditional bipartisanship in Santa Cruz, but from Cambiemos there are those who still maintain that Vidal “is more of the same” for having integrated the space of Alicia Kirchner in 2019.

That criterion was the one that was imposed in the elections of last August 13. The radical wing of Together for Change did not accept an alliance with Vidal and the opposition arrived divided. The space headed by Roxana Reyes and which led Eduardo Costa as a candidate for senator, made its worst election in years: did not exceed 8% of the votes.

At 44 years old, the oilman will assume the governorship in December, after a transition that Alicia Kirchner promised as orderly. Cristina’s sister-in-law met with Vidal for the traditional institutional photo, but the relationship is tense.

The Governor of the Province of Santa Cruz Alicia Kirchner received her successor, the Governor-elect Claudio Vidal

Oil as a political springboard

The oil sector was key in Vidal’s triumph: the trade unionist manages a union of 8,000 members with salaries that are among the highest in the region and in the activity.

Through the union, in recent years the now governor-elect built in various towns, gyms and schools that they call “models”, while the province was going through more than sixty days of unemployment. He also inaugurated a feedlot to generate “quality meat” in a union field, to supply the businesses that the union was opening in various locations in Santa Cruz.

In the northern part of the province, where the cities close to the main extraction and oil exploration wells are located, Vidal prevailed with total comfort.

The great unknown with the governor-elect, who assumes himself to be a Peronist, is whether he will plan a management that, as he pointed out on the night of the triumph, “closes a stage in the history of the province to begin writing a new book”, or if its origins in Kirchnerism will be a ghost that accompanies it.

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