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A Serious Message May Get a Serious Diva Into Argentine Congress

Moria Casan, a longtime cabaret star and now a maverick candidate for Argentina's Congress, campaigns in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Mataderos. Beside Casan, 56, a onetime TV hostess, is a faux President Bush.
Moria Casan, a longtime cabaret star and now a maverick candidate for Argentina's Congress, campaigns in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Mataderos. Beside Casan, 56, a onetime TV hostess, is a faux President Bush. (By Silvina Frydlewsky For The Washington Post)

Even though her medium may be vampy, her message is serious. Analysts said she could tap into a well of national resentment against international pressure for fiscal reforms, which many Argentines believe plunged the country into an economic crisis four years ago from which it has yet to recover.

Casan's current touring show is titled "The Fund Can Wait," a reference to the International Monetary Fund and its demands for measures to reduce inflation and debt. Between lively dance numbers, the show features comic sketches that poke fun at both President Nestor Kirchner and IMF officials.

Her co-star, the comedian Artaza, lost much of his savings during the economic collapse and has since been an outspoken critic of the Kirchner government, which he says cares more about protecting its status with international investors than its own people.

The names of Artaza, two tango singers, an actor, a talk show host and a former showgirl are also on the ballot.

Ducote and other analysts have compared Casan's candidacy to that of Ilona "Cicciolina" Staller, a pornographic film actress who was elected to Italy's parliament in 1987. Casan has never been a porn star, but during her 33-year career as a vedette -- the term used here for the stars of live variety shows -- she has always challenged social mores.

On "To Bed with Moria," her TV show in the 1990s, she chatted with politicians and celebrities while reclining in an overstuffed bed, cavorting in lingerie and encouraging her guests to speak frankly about their sex lives. She also opened the country's first nude beach in the coastal resort town of Mar del Plata.

"I'm an artist, and all artists must provoke their audiences," said Casan, a tall, imposing woman with long black hair, striking features and a generous figure, about which she jokes often. "I will continue to be provocative as a politician -- always."

On a recent Friday evening, Casan staged her closest approximation of a campaign rally to date, at a pizza parlor in the working-class neighborhood of Mataderos. As she stepped out of a bright yellow BMW, she was mobbed by hundreds of fans. She wore a black tank top with the word "Glamour" stretched across the front in sparkling letters.

As Casan's handlers rushed her inside the restaurant, the crowd pressed against the windows for a closer look. Among them was Marta Veloso, 67, who detoured from her walk home to try to catch a glimpse.

"She once did a skit on television set in our neighborhood, so we like her," said Veloso. "She's a person of the people, and she's never been in politics before, so she's more trustworthy. You can't trust politicians."

Sitting at a table, Casan granted a few brief interviews and consulted with her campaign staff. She was supposed to walk two blocks through the neighborhood and chat with residents, but that plan was canceled.

"How can I do anything?" Casan said, looking at the mass of people jockeying for position outside the door. "I can't walk anywhere. There are too many people."

Instead, she was escorted by bodyguards to a waiting Volkswagen that drove her away. But her campaign managers were far from concerned: Casan's appearance alone had been enough.


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