Being rich is great until….you run for political office. Regardless of whether you are in Argentina, as is the case of my friend Francisco de Narvaez , or anywhere else in the democratic world, being rich is generally seen as an obstacle for political candidates.

Why is being rich a handicap even for people like Francisco de Narvaez, who are not running conservative campaigns aimed at favoring the interest of the top earners?

My take, is that being rich creates a barrier between the voter and the candidate that is hard to overcome. Voters want to identify with candidates, they want one like them, not a candidate with a private jet. Never mind that Francisco, in spite of his jet, is probably better able to attract the investors needed to generate good quality jobs than the current governor.

So how is is it that certain rich candidates overcome this handicap? In the case of George W Bush and John Kerry, the strategy was simple: Dubya portrayed his opponent as even richer and less in touch with the people. And he was successful. In the case of Berlusconi, his strategy –which worked until his promise was not delivered–, was to promise to make Italians richer… with him being the main example. When he failed to deliver, he was ousted.

Now it so happens that I believe that Francisco de Narvaez would actually do a good job improving the living conditions of people in Buenos Aires. From my conversation with him today it seems that he is not a conservative or right wing candidate and he is concerned with the tremendous inequities of Argentina.

My advise to him? Blog. Many journalists will trash you just for being rich. At least you will be able to show your point of view. A third of Argentines are on the internet now and his type of voters are overrepresented in that third.

Having said all this, I do think that there is a risk that Francisco will have a hard time sometimes acting against the interest of his friends in the ruling class for the benefit of all of the people, and that is the danger of voting progressive candidates who are rich. Francisco, who is now a representative, will have to have a good voting record that shows that he can vote for what´s best to most Argentines.

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Galleguayo on December 30, 2006  · 

Creo que estás subestimando al electorado argentino, que se puede equivocar a la corta, pero a la larga, el mismo pueblo encuentra su destino. Eso puede pasar en las democracias, así funciona el sistema…

Por otro lado, Argentina ha tenido y tiene muchos candidatos que son ricos y progresistas, y no por ello son mal vistos por el Pueblo. (Salvo que la Argentina haya cambiado en los últimos 5 años).

Un abrazo.

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Charbax on January 1, 2007  · 

Being rich doesn’t make one a concervative. I guess that probably more than half of all rich people actually are progressive. Because despite their success and fortune, I believe more than half of them actually still can see the misfortune and waste of talent that is part of the rest of the society.

While I think most true concervatives are rich, and have the power and the priviledges already. You need to have stuff not to want for society to change.

For a progressive, having a lot of money and having the connections and experience interacting with deciders, can be an advantage in these times where having influence in politics also means you need to have access to some administrative shortcuts.

I think that your candidate needs just as any other candidate, to convince that he will work pationnately for the good of all, with an obligation and urgence to improve life for the poorest, and assure that he is not just planning to prolong the status-quo or to make it even easier for the the few richest. He can do that by talking a lot about his plans, and showing proof that he has previously successfully worked for that same goal to improve life for all. Then when the confidence is there, he needs to listen and promise that he will keep listening since the collective intelligence of the people is always the most progressive.

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Leo Piccioli on January 1, 2007  · 


Maybe you are forgetting that, despite Francisco´s well known management abilities and ethical values, he was quite near Mr. Menem for a couple of years.
He probably saw that as a way of getting to a place were he could act, and change things. But I believe several people relate Francisco and M.; and this is not good for him. Not being M. the worst image politician in the country, again.

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Crhistian on January 2, 2007  · 

Hola Martin,
Pienso que el problema de Francisco de Narvaez, no es su riqueza. De hecho ha recibido pocas criticas por ello. No mas que otros. Ademas, FdN nunca lo ocultó.
Su problema, es político. El ha cometido muchos errores en el terreno político que cada vez lo desacreditaron un poco mas. En general, se trata de haber cambiado de lealtades o de referentes con demasiada rapidez, sin consistencia y de modo irracional. (yo culpo a sus malos asesores).
1) Se alio con Macri, y antes de comenzar a jugar, ya se habian peleado. (soy testigo ya que trabaje un tiempo en Creer y Crecer).
2) Salto al menemismo de ultima hora, unos meses antes de la elección contra Kirchner, y fue un “protagonista” central entre la primera y segunda vuelta. Dicen las malas lenguas que habria sido “luqueado”(slang de esquilmado) como un aprendiz por Bauza, Kohan, Menem Sobrino, y otros de la banda.
3) Luego de la derrota, tuvo un acercamiento a Kirchner -hombre desconfiado si los hay- y logro penetrar las gruesas paredes de la rosada, ganando algunos instantes presidenciales. Se menciono como ministro de Accion Social.
4) Inexplicablemente se alio con Duhalde, en contra de Kirchner y se embandero como uno de los principales escuderos del ex hombre fuerte de Buenos Aires, haciendo migas con Mercuri, Diaz Bancalari, y otros apostoles duhaldistas.

Como ven, un derrotero politico inconsistente y erratico. Inexplicable e inexplicado por FdN.

Otra cosa: en su fundacion unidos del sur, quienes ahi trabajan dicen “fundacion felices los niños”, pues parece un lugar para estar becado bajo el mezenazgo de FdN. Muchos operadores politicos de medio pelo se hacen ricos a expenzas de la fortuna de De Narvaez (lo dicen sonrientes), y evidentemente son quienes los asesoran.

Por momentos, creo que la buena intencion de FdN se convierte en ingenuidad política.
crhistian austin

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Antoin O Lachtnain on January 3, 2007  · 

Don’t know anything about Argentina’s politics, but maybe the problem is not so much that he is rich, but that he hasn’t spent a lifetime building a political constituency?

I agree that blogging is one way to try to catch up on this. He has to use it to tie into the traditional political networks.

The biggest obstaclts in the career of a talented politician are never with the voters or the opposing parties – the biggest problems are always getting the support within your own party -. At least that’s how it works in Ireland, the UK and America, and I doubt if Argentina is much different.

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rodrigo on January 3, 2007  · 

You say FdN is not conservative, but everybody he works with in politics is conservative, his media enterprises represent the worst kind of business interests (the ones that flourished under Menem in the 90s…like at the change of editor-in-chief at el Cronista Comercial this week). He has formed a political careers hand-in-hand with rightists politicians like Diaz Bancalari, Sarghini and the rest of the “Peronismo Federal” caucus in the Lower House. Speaking to him you may have gotten certain impression of his ideas, but the way he acts is different from what you say he claims to be.

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euronerd on January 4, 2007  · 

Funny thing about people is that some try to influence others.
If they are good at that, generally they can use it either for altruistic or for selfish reasons.

Forms of altruism also contain politics, trying to create a better world, without ulterior motives.
A form of selfish behavior is getting rich, somehow fortune is always payed by other people.

People do not expect that other people shift their morals from selfishness to altruism. So once somebody gets rich this is perceived as stealing from the poor, and that specific somebody is not expected to behave differently as a politician, whatever words come out of his mouth.

It must be said that some rich people acknowledge this mechanism, and reach a state of shame over their wealth. They subsequently seek relief by ways of cheap altruism, always taking much care of not loosing too much money, because hey, they worked their talent hard to get it all, didn’t they ?
That cheap altruism can be politics, and this way even rich people can do good things for humanity.
However, would you trust a thief that became a police-man?

In Germany, currently a child-murderer is setting up an institute to help victims of child molesters. Your comment?

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Natalia on January 9, 2007  · 

Todo bien con los comentarios sobre De Narvaez pero alguien se acuerda que Kirchner fue Menemista?? Que Alberto Fernandez estaba en el partido de Felipe Cavallo?? Que la señora Cristina Kirchner fue la presidenta de la Convecional Constituyente que permitio la re-eleccion de Menem?? Y que el Sr y la Sra K antes fueron montoneros?? Hablando de panqueques y otras yerbas…

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Patrick on January 16, 2007  · 

Honesty is the main thing voters look for and politics is based on exactly the reverse: promises, promises and promises.

I like the examples given by the US Joe Kennedy (senior) who actually made his considerable fortune by selling booze and insider trading. History actually made him out to be slightly incompetent and bad timing with WW2 (not to mention that Kennedy was sympathising with the Nazis which also didn’t bother middle America not keen on getting involved in “someone elses war”).

In the end rich politicians are rarely altruistic and really honest – only history books protray then tah way. It’s a bit like a prince charming story for 10 year old girls.

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Taylor Duvall on January 31, 2007  · 

Thank you for bringing Francisco De Narvaez back into my awareness. Having done some successful business with him twenty years ago, I was intrigued to read about the twists and turns of his life since then and the choice he made to go into politics. In my opinion, Francisco was someone who embraced his wealth, was happy despite it and was not defined by his wealth on a personal level.

Despite his personal tribulations (divorced, suicidal thoughts), his tattoo signifies, as I would expect, he turned those crises into opportunities. But politically, how can any man who travels by helicopter, plane and armored Hummers with body guards be in touch with his constituents? Years ago, I traveled a road to his farm in Pilar and complained of the bump filled, dirt lane. When I saw the helicopter on the lawn, I realised he didn’t use the road….

Don’t get me wrong, I wish him well with his political and personal ambitions. If he is anything like the man he was years ago, I know he will try to help the little guy. All those years ago, I was stranded in a military coo attempt in B.A. and he helped me, a small fry.

Do you know what philanthropic work he has done or is doing now? As an unqualified political strategist, I think those activities, if sincere and not elite, would speak to the average Argentine… He would need to stop the celebrity style photos of him on the beach with young models though….

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