From the New York Times, Dec. 7, 2002 .....(abbreviated)
Elisa Carrio (accent on o) is a presidential candidate in Argentina who was an unknown academic living in a rural province a few years ago. Upon being elected to Congress she made her mark as a reformer, with fiery speeches and investigations exposing government wrongdoing, and now, with collapse of the Argentine economy, Ms. Carrio's star has risen in a nation disgusted with corrupt, inept government. On this score Lilita, as Ms. Carrio is known, does not mince her words. "Argentina needs new political and economic institutions, because the ruling class is spent," she claims. Calling the governing class a set of "mafias" she says, "get rid of all of them." Some have called her mentally unstable, others a mystic. She dismisses the establishment as a "cynical and incapable crew."
Ms. Carrio believes in free markets and private property, so she can't be branded a radical leftist. She has sworn off T.V. adds in her campaign for president, which formally began in December. Opinion polls put her ahead of other candidates for president.
Ms. Carrio was once a beauty queen and debutante, married in high school and had three children while pursuing a social life among the priviledged. Now her image is "anti-marketing personified." "I used to be thin and beautiful," she said in an interview. "But when I started eating what I felt like eating and wearing what I felt like wearing, it made me happier. I don't use makeup or buy lots of clothes anymore, and I don't miss it at all." Although she reveres Eva Peron, who rose to unofficial power with her dictator husband Juan Peron in the 1940's and looms large as friend of the poor, a populist demigod in Argentine political lore, Carrio has disavowed the glamor that personified Evita. Evita was born poor and scrapped her way to the top, whereas Ms. Carrio was born into wealth and now distances herself from its trappings. Ms Carrio attacks the corrupt establishment as a soldier of the people, Evita cast her net to the poor from the balcony of priviledge and power.
"Without fanaticism one cannot accomplish anything."
Elisa Carrio is devoutly Catholic, a devotee of Our Lady the Unraveler of Knots, carries a rosary and attends mass daily. Once an agnostic, she attributes her embrace of religion to a difficult time when a brother and several close friends died within a short time, and credits her faith with getting her through her early years as an upstart political reformer. "My faith has aided and sustained me in what was for a long time a solitary battle," she said. "For a couple of years there I was treated like a leper." In Congress, she said, she was "politically persecuted to the point that no one wanted even to have a cup of coffee with me."
Winning the April election for the president is not an obsession with Carrio, and politics takes a back seat to being a person of principle. "I do not need public office if I have spiritual truth," she claims. "If we win, fine, then another battle begins, to nurture a government and make changes. But if we lose, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that my own life has changed, and that in following our path with dignity and probity we set an example of incorruptibility."