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Alberto Fernández chooses new cabinet ministers in Argentina, in conservative turn after crisis

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Five new ministers, including the chief of staff, took office on Monday, September 20, in Argentina in an attempt by the government to overcome the political crisis triggered by a crushing defeat in the legislative election primaries.

The new officials are mostly experienced Peronist leaders, indicating that the center-left government has prioritized management capacity over ideology to leave behind the political division of the ruling party amid the severe economic crisis the country is suffering.

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“What is coming has to do with decisions that we are going to start taking (…) that are intended to respond to a part of the electorate that has been affected by the (coronavirus) pandemic. And all the economic growth that is effectively happening has not reached them,” said President Fernández during the swearing-in ceremony of his ministers.

The new officials are mostly experienced Peronist leaders, indicating that the center-left government has prioritized management capacity over ideology (Photo internet reproduction)

The changes were announced last Friday, after days of tension due to a dispute between the moderate president and his vice-president, the powerful former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who represents the most radical wing of the coalition Frente de Todos.

According to experts, the Cabinet renewal implies a victory for the vice-president, who is fighting for higher public spending to deal with the 42% poverty rate in the country, against Fernández, who was trying to stabilize the economy.

The ruling party hopes to shorten the nine percentage points difference that the center-right opposition alliance Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) won eight days ago in the primaries.

“The government needs to reverse the result in a couple of provinces that elect senators, in order not to lose the majority. That requires handing out a lot of money. For that it needs seasoned ministers (…) ideology is secondary”, explained political analyst Andres Malamud.

Juan Manzur took over as Chief of Cabinet, former minister Aníbal Fernández as head of the Security portfolio, the experienced Julián Domínguez in Agriculture, Jaime Perzyck in Education and Daniel Filmus in Science. Santiago Cafiero, until now Chief of Cabinet, became Argentina’s Foreign Minister.

In addition, Fernández replaced the presidential spokesperson, who had been strongly questioned by the vice-president.

Financial markets were closely following the political crisis and on Monday they fell again due to the uncertainty about the future of the economic policy.

While trying to leave behind a three-year recession – deepened by the coronavirus pandemic – the Government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the payment of a US$44 billion debt.

The government is expected to announce wage hikes and tax cuts in the coming days. “The impact of additional fiscal expansion, amid limited access to debt markets, will further exacerbate the prevailing monetary imbalance,” JP Morgan bank said in a report.

While the primaries only defined a few candidates and have no major institutional implications, they are considered a plebiscite of the presidential administration and a broad poll before the November mid-term vote.

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