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ARGENTINA | 07-12-2019 08:58

Alberto Fernández unveils 21-strong Cabinet

President-elect calls on new officials to ‘lead a unique moment of change’ and expresses concern over poverty data.

President-elect Alberto Fernández formally announced his Cabinet on Friday evening, calling on his new officials to “lead a unique moment of change” in Argentina.

“I ask you all to be the watchdogs. The majority of you are having the opportunity to start your public official careers and lead a unique moment of change,” said the president-elect during a press conference at his party’s headquarters in Puerto Madero.

The former Cabinet chief, who takes office on Tuesday seconded by vice-presidentelect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, sat at a table with his Cabinet members seated on either side of him. He extolled the virtues of his team one-by-one, announcing them by name and explaining their background and his relationship with them.

“I know the moral quality and technical quality of each one of those who accompany me,” said Fernández, stressing that he was “very happybecause we are a front that was established on the basis of unity.”

“I want to thank you all for accepting me and joining me. Now everyone get to work,” he added.

The incoming head of state also expressed concern over new poverty data from the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) indicating that 40.8 percent of Argentines now live below the poverty line.

“What is for certain is our commitment to making the 41 percent of the Argentine population our priority. They are our main priority. Of anyone, they are the privileged ones, they deserve all of our attention,” he said.

OFFICIALS

In the headline takeaway Fernández named Martín Guzmán as economy minister, following weeks of rumours to that end. The 37-year-old will take over the ministry at a crucial time, especially given the urgency of the debt owed to the International Monetar y Fund (IMF) and international bondholders.

Just days before the formal announcement Friday, Guzmán, together with Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz at an event in New York, proposed a twoyear delay on paying off extenral debt owed and, through an agreement with creditors, extending those payment plans to stimulate capital.

“It’s great that he’s decided to leave New York and return to Buenos Aires. I have great confidence in him. He’s a young man who is very prepared, and we have worked together for weeks,” said Fernández.

Guzmán is the director of a debt restructuring programme at Columbia University in New York City. He also is a macreconomics professor at the University of Buenos Aires.

Among other notables appointees were Felipe Solá (Foreign Minister), Santiago Cafiero (Cabinet Chief), Matías Kulfas (Production Minister), De Pedro (Interior Minister) and Ginés González García (Health Minister).

Among the list of more traditionally ‘Kirchnerite’ figures in the Cabinet were Tristán Bauer (Culture Minister), Agustín Rossi (Defence Minister), Juan Cabandié (Environment & Social Development Minister), Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro (Interior Minister), Sabina Frederic (Security Minister), Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta (Women, Gender & Diversity Minister) and Carlos Zannini (Treasury Attorney).

Sergio Massa’s allies were also well represented by figures such as Malena Galmarini (Head of AYSA state waterworks company, Gabr iel Katopodis ( P ublic Works Minister) and Mario Meoni (Transport Minister).

The all-important Cabinet chief role, held in the Macri administration by the muchmaligned Marcos Peña, went to Santiago Cafiero, the grandson of the legendary Peronist power-broker Antonio Cafiero. Fernández, who held the role under both former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, said he considered it to be a central node of his political structure, calling it “the president’s alter ego.”

Cafiero, who had been close to former presidential candidate Daniel Scioli, was also previously close to ex-Interior minister Florencio Randazzo, but began to work in the Grupo Callo, alongside Fernández. Fernández’s press team later highlighted that the pr e sident- elect had increased the size of the Cabinet significantly, by 80 percent compared to the outgoing Macri administration, which closes out its term with just nine ministries.

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