The ruling party of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner is under fire over a poster that appeared just ahead of legislative elections, showing her and a candidate smiling alongside Pope Francis, AFP reports.
The opposition is accusing Kirchner's party of using the Argentine-born pope's image to help the candidacy of Martin Insaurralde, who is the main candidate of her Victory Front running in the August 11 legislative primaries.
The poster shows the pope and the two politicians shaking hands after he celebrated mass last Sunday in neighboring Brazil, along with a quote from the pontiff: "Never be discouraged, don't let hope fade away."
"The pope is a universal figure, everybody is happy with him. I never imagined this, going to take a picture with him for a campaign poster," said Jose de la Sota, a governor of the central province of Cordoba and critics of the federal government.
The candidate of the opposition Progressive Front party, Margarita Stolbizer, accused the government of using public funds Insaurralde to travel to Rio de Janeiro just to take a photo with the pope, a popular figure in this majority Catholic country.
But Insaurralde, the 43-year-old mayor of the city of Lomas de Zamora, insisted that the poster "is not part of the Victory Front's campaign."
Insaurralde has trailed in opinion polls for the primary race to represent the province of Buenos Aires, but he has gained ground in recent days.
A survey by Poliarquia polling firm showed Insaurralde trailing Sergio Massa, mayor of the city of Tigre, by five percentage points compared to an 11-point deficit previously. After the primary, Argentines will vote in the election for deputies and senators on October 27.
The poster has also caused unease in Argentina's Roman Catholic church.
A church source, who requested anonymity, said that the poster "did not go over well."
The church has received "emails and calls from people who are totally unhappy with the handling of the photo," the source said.