Argentina's president reshuffles cabinet after political crisis

AFP
Buenos Aires, Argentina Published: Sep 18, 2021, 01:53 PM(IST)

Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez speaks during a brief joint news conference with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (not pictured) at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, May 11, 2021. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Argentina's reshuffle came one day after Vice President Cristina Kirchner wrote Fernandez to demand one, deepening the crisis gripping the ruling coalition after their poor showing in the weekend primaries

Argentina's president Alberto Fernandez announced a new cabinet on Friday in a bid to smother a political crisis that pitted him bitterly against his vice president this week after an electoral defeat in legislative primaries.

The reshuffle came one day after Vice President Cristina Kirchner wrote Fernandez to demand one, deepening the crisis gripping the ruling coalition after their poor showing in the weekend primaries.

Juan Manzur, governor of Tucuman province, will take over as chief of staff from Santiago Cafiero, one of Kirchner's most controversial officials, the presidency announced. 

Cafiero instead became foreign minister, replacing Felipe Sola, who is in Mexico for the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, which begins on Saturday. 

Due to the crisis, Fernandez canceled his visit to Mexico for the summit and won't attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

The new ministers joining the cabinet, who will be sworn in on Monday, are Anibal Fernandez (Security), Julian Dominguez (Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries), Juan Perzyck (Education) and Daniel Filmus (Science and Technology). 

Juan Ross was also appointed as the new Secretary of Communication and Press, replacing Juan Pablo Biondi, whom the vice president had openly rejected and accused of organizing "off-the-record operations." 

The government of Fernandez and Kirchner, herself a former president, has been going through its most acute crisis yet this week after the weekend's legislative primary elections, in which the ruling Frente de Todos coalition won only 31 per cent of the votes at the national level. 

These results put the ruling party's majority in the Senate at risk for the parliamentary by-elections on November 14, as well as any majority in the Chamber of Deputies, with two years of the Fernandez-Kirchner mandate still to run.

The crisis broke out earlier this week, after Interior Minister Eduardo 'Wado' de Pedro and four cabinet ministers offered to step down after a poor showing for Frente de Todos in weekend primary elections. The officials were all close to Kirchner and the move was seen as her attempt to put pressure on Fernandez to reshuffle the cabinet.

"Do you seriously believe that it is not necessary, after such a defeat, to publicly present the resignations and that those in charge facilitate the president to reorganize his government?" Kirchner wrote to Fernandez in a letter, in which she also criticized those who "cling to their chairs." 

In the end, De Pedro and the other ministers kept their posts.

The center-right coalition Juntos, of ex-president Mauricio Macri, obtained 40 percent of the votes cast nationwide on Sunday. 

It critically made great strides in the province of Buenos Aires, the country's largest electoral district and considered a bastion of Fernandez's party.

Fernandez took power from the incumbent Macri in 2019.

Public discontent with his government has been growing in a country in recession since 2018 and a GDP drop of 9.9 percent last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Argentina has one of the world's highest inflation rates, at 29 percent from January to July this year, and a poverty rate of 42 percent.

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