Alberto Fernández negotiates with the governors the final wording of the decree that will prohibit night driving throughout the country

Alberto Fernández during the meeting he held on Wednesday with the governors
Alberto Fernández during the meeting he held on Wednesday with the governors

In the next few hours, Alberto Fernández will define the scope of the decree that will prohibit night-time circulation throughout the country to appease the wave of COVID-19 infections that began with the marches for abortion and the end of the year parties.

With the political decision already taken between the Casa Rosada and the 24 governors, the delay in the drafting of the decree is linked to its extension in the different provinces that exhibit different health realities among themselves. From this perspective, The head of state awaits a sanitary method to determine how exceptions to the effective prohibition of the decree that would be published tomorrow in the Official Gazette will be allowed.

In turn, Alberto Fernández must decide between his position to start the ban from 23 to 5 in the morning, while some governors and mayors of the ruling party and the opposition propose that the circulatory lock start from midnight.

On Wednesday afternoon, Fernández held a videoconference, for three and a half hours, with all the governors of the country. At that time, he proposed to cut the movement of the population at night, restrict public transport only to be used by essential workers, limit social gatherings to 10 people and give each president the power to have a margin of application in each one of its districts.

Throughout the afternoon of today the President, together with the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero; the Secretary of Access to Health, Carla Vizzoti and the Legal and Technical Secretary, Vilma Ibarra, were discussing the details of the decree that, in principle, it would be published during the early hours of Friday and would take effect at midnight.

Throughout the day, which began with negotiations at 7 in the morning at the Quinta de Olivos and continued during the afternoon on the first floor of the Casa Rosada, Fernández exchanged messages with the head of Government of the City of Buenos Aires , Horacio Rodríguez Larreta; and the governors Axel Kicillof (Buenos Aires), Juan Schiaretti (Córdoba) and Gerardo Morales placeholder image (Jujuy). In addition, he received the president of Chaco at the Government House, Jorge Capitanich.

Alberto Fernández could apply a method proposed by Axel Kicillof during the videoconference with the governors
Alberto Fernández could apply a method proposed by Axel Kicillof during the videoconference with the governors

This crossing of opinions helped him to know where he stands with respect to the endorsement of the governors and the possible implementation of the decree. So far this day, the Head of State has reviewed three draft decree and it has not yet defined which one will be published at dawn. What he has decided is that it will be in the early hours of Friday.

During the afternoon they also discussed how the decision will be communicated. In the Casa Rosada they understand that it is important for people to understand the seriousness of the health situation and what the prohibitions are, in addition to clarifying the scope that they will have and the power that governors may have to apply them in their provinces.

In principle, the intention is that Santiago Cafiero and the Minister of Health, Ginés González García, take the lead of a press conference to communicate, in detail, the content of the decree. In parallel, three other ministers would explain the measures in the media. Government seeks informative clarity for a key decision due to the political cost that it will have to bear to re-apply restrictions on circulation.

Although Fernández proposed that the circulation restriction be between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the decree could establish the prohibition between 00 and 6 in the morning. The change would be a nod to the governors, who asked him yesterday that the merchants be harmed as little as possible. One more hour of open stores is, in short, more time to sell.

Alberto Fernández seeks the support of the majority of the governors to be able to implement the night time restriction (Presidency)
Alberto Fernández seeks the support of the majority of the governors to be able to implement the night time restriction (Presidency)

One of the discussions that the President has with his work team is whether the decree will be simple or of necessity and urgency. The doubt lies in opening a political scenario that allows the opposition to muddy the discussion. If the decree is simple, it should not be reviewed by the Permanent Bicameral Legislative Procedure Commission of Congress. That review would give Juntos por el Cambio a chance to question the scope of the new restrictions.

So far in the pandemic, all the decrees to extend the mandatory isolation were DNU, which generated a permanent criticism from the opposition, which asked that the process pass through Congress and be voted on by a majority. The Government always refused to apply this modality and understood that the health severity was an argument with enough weight to be able to apply the decree.

Some ministers close to Fernández believe that the Government would enter into a contradiction if it decides not to apply a DNU, since throughout 2020 it was the modality it used to extend, on repeated occasions, the quarantine. At nightfall, the prevailing position in Balcarce 50 is to issue a simple decree and shut down the conflict with the opposition, leaving them without the legislative stage as a battlefield.

Coronavirus cases increased exponentially in the country over the last four weeks (EFE / Juan Ignacio Roncoroni / File)
Coronavirus cases increased exponentially in the country over the last four weeks (EFE / Juan Ignacio Roncoroni / File)

However, the main discussion is on another topic. Both the President and the governors fear that there will be civil disobedience after the application of the decree. That is, that people decide not to comply with the restrictions, go out, open their businesses and continue living as they have been up to now. They recognize that the extensive quarantine, added to the economic crisis that the country was dragging on, put the work of millions of people in check. Curbing activity at night will affect thousands of businesses across the country.

With that fear in tow, the first president today brought up a proposal that Axel Kicillof did yesterday afternoon during the video conference. The governor of Buenos Aires proposed to build an application method that preserves the economic, social and cultural activity of the cities that do not have cases of coronavirus or that, failing that, have very few based on the number of inhabitants they have. He argued that those municipalities should not be reached by the restrictions.

In this way, localities with a health system with free beds and a low contagion rate, would be exempted from the prohibition to circulate at night. Based on this idea, an agreement was built between the government and the governors to try to implement a technical mechanism that allows the leaders to decide which cities are under the restrictions of the decree and which are not.

The governor of Córdoba, Juan Schiaretti, was one of those who resisted applying the restrictive measure
The governor of Córdoba, Juan Schiaretti, was one of those who resisted applying the restrictive measure

What is being discussed in the last hours are the parameters of that technical contraption. They must define whether the limits are the number of coronavirus cases per number of inhabitants, the doubling rate of cases or the percentage of intensive care beds occupied in the health system. They are variables that are under observation and have yet to be defined.

As in the discussion for the decree, what matters at the moment is that the level of infections per inhabitant in each municipality is taken and that a parameter be established to decide which cities are restricted from circulation and which are not. It will be a political decision made by the President in harmony with the Ministry of Health and the Chief of Cabinet.

This mechanism would generate a greater consensus among the governors, who have already publicly imposed resistance. Córdoba and the City of Buenos Aires raised concerns about the media and doubts about the implementation. Everything is under negotiation but the decision has been made. From Saturday night circulation will be restricted.

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