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ARGENTINA | 09-08-2021 18:11

Cafiero confirms Taiana, Zabaleta as new Cabinet ministers

Former foreign minister Jorge Taiana will return to frontline politics, replacing Agustín Rossi as defence minister; Hurlingham Mayor Juan Zabaleta to take over Social Development Ministry, Daniel Arroyo departs.

Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero has announced that Jorge Taiana will become Argentina’s new defence minister, with Juan Horacio Zabaleta heading up the Social Development Ministry.

The incoming officials will be sworn-in at a ceremony at the Casa Rosada led by President Alberto Fernández, scheduled for 6pm tomorrow, said the Cabinet chief.

Speaking during a brief press conference at the Casa Rosada, Cafiero paid tribute to outgoing ministers Agustín Rossi (Defence) and Daniel Arroyo (Social Development), praising their “dedication and effort” during the first 20 months of the Fernández administration. 

The departing ministers will leave their posts as a consequence of their decisions to launch runs for elected office in the upcoming midterm elections. Arroyo will run for national deputy in Buenos Aires Province, while Rossi will seek a Senate seat representing Santa Fe Province.

Cafiero described both as “excellent Cabinet colleagues to work with” and underlined that the coronavirus pandemic had handed all ministers a challenge that had left many feeling “exhausted.” He highlighted "the dedication, commitment and daily activism that they have sustained” while leading their ministries.

The Cabinet chief then offered his congratulations to Zabaleta and Taiana, two new appointees who will take up key government posts.

Taiana, 71, is a familiar face to political observers. The veteran Peronist served as Argentina’s foreign minister from 2005 to 2010, serving in both the Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administrations. 

Despite resigning that post due to “differences” with then-president Fernández de Kirchner, he has remained her ally since, accompanying the two-term leader’s senatorial run in 2017 and taking her seat in the upper house two years later, when she resigned to be sworn-in as the nation’s vice-president. 

Taiana, in turn, will now give up his seat in order to lead the Defence Ministry, with Juliana Di Tullio, Fernández de Kirchner’s close ally, set to take the Senate seat.

Zabaleta, 54, is a newcomer to the Cabinet. Close to President Fernández, the Haedo-born politician was elected mayor of Hurlingham in 2015 after previously having been elected councillor. He won re-election in 2019 and with a mandate running until December 10, 2023, he will request a leave of absence in order to take up his new post.

Before becoming mayor, Zabaleta passed through the Senate and the ANSES social security agency, experiences that will hopefully serve him well when leading the Social Development Ministry. That portfolio took on a key role during the Covid-19 pandemic under Arroyo, developing social aid policies, grants and subsidies to support the most disadvantaged citizens.

Argentina's PASO primaries, in which Arroyo and Rossi will both run, will take place on September 12, with midterm legislative elections due November 14. Half of the lower house Chamber of Deputies will be renewed, along with a third of the Senate.

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James Grainger

James Grainger

Editor-in-Chief, Buenos Aires Times.

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