The Miami Herald
October 3, 1999

Argentine front-runner skips debate, draws scorn from rivals


 Leading Argentine presidential candidate Fernando de la Rua's failure to show up
 at a Herald-organized teleconference Friday was widely reported by Argentine
 media over the weekend, and became the theme of strong attacks against him by
 his top rivals.

 De la Rua, the Buenos Aires mayor whose opposition alliance is leading in the
 polls for the Oct. 24 presidential elections, had agreed to participate in what
 would have been the first presentation with his two nearest rivals via
 teleconference at the two-day Miami Herald Conference of the Americas.

 But hours before the program, de la Rua aides announced he would not arrive at
 the TV studio in Buenos Aires because of ``scheduling problems,'' and declined
 an offer to participate via telephone. His two top opponents, Buenos Aires
 province Gov. Eduardo Duhalde and former economy minister Domingo Cavallo,
 arrived for the debate.

 ``Duhalde and Cavallo were left without a chance to debate with de la Rua,'' read a
 headline in Saturday's editions of the mass circulation daily Clarin. The influential
 daily La Nacion said, ``The three presidential candidates were invited . . . but de
 la Rua didn't show up.''

 During the program Friday, Duhalde, of the Peronist Party, quipped that ``[former
 president Raul] Alfonsin has already said it; de la Rua lacks courage, even for the
 most elementary things, such as participating in a debate.'' Cavallo added that if
 de la Rua ``lacks the courage to debate, he will have even less courage to

 Duhalde spent most of his time at the teleconference blasting the International
 Monetary Fund for demanding new austerity measures, and called for ``a
 productive shock, without more belt-tightening measures.'' Cavallo called for
 attacking unemployment by scrapping current labor laws that make it too
 expensive for businesses to hire new workers.

 De la Rua is leading in the polls by between 9 and 20 points. If he doesn't reach
 45 percent of the vote, the election could go to a second round, in which Cavallo
 is widely expected to back Duhalde.