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ARGENTINA | 26-04-2019 12:25

Durán Barba: 'I've been with Mauricio since 2004 and we’ve always won'

As Argentine bonds slump, Ecuadorean adviser tells Bloomberg that the markets have got it wrong.

In the week that Argentina’s bond market fell off a cliff, President Mauricio Macri’s campaign strategist says investors have exaggerated the political risks.

A recent poll showing former president and populist Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would narrowly beat Macri in October’s election has been given too much attention, said Jaime Durán Barba in an interview.

He cited past precedence for his confidence in Macri’s eventual victory.

“I’ve been with Mauricio in campaigns since 2004 and we’ve always won," the Ecuadorean adviser said in an interview Thursday at Macri’s Cambiemos coalition headquarters in Buenos Aires.

"Polls aren’t a crystal ball, they’re just a way of understanding what people want, what they dream about, what they’re thinking," he added.

Durán Barba has accompanied Macri throughout his political career, helping him to victory in elections as Buenos Aires City mayor and president. He declined to provide the government’s internal polling numbers, though he did say that among undecided voters, 45 percent say they would never vote for Fernández de Kirchner, while only 35 percent say they would never cast a ballot for Macri.

He called on investors to hire their own academic researchers, while recognising that he is no economist and has never bought a bond.

Yields on Argentine bonds rose well into distressed debt territory this week on concern Fernández de Kirchner will win October’s election, reverse Macri’s free-market policies and possibly default on the country’s debt.

Many Argentines have turned against Macri as the economy endures its second recession of his presidency and the inflation rate rises above 50 percent. Even Durán Barba recognises there is a serious problem, while dismissing speculation that anyone other than Macri would represent the coalition as presidential candidate.

“There is a lot of concern about the economy, and that is hurting us,” he said. “But in the contest of the least worse, we clearly win. We are the least worse.”

At the same time, he recognizes that Fernández de Kirchner will be a formidable opponent.

“The people who think Kirchner is not going to be a candidate are crazy,” Durán Barba said. “That is impossible. I am not her fan, but she is a very talented politician.”

He added that Argentines don’t trust polls until a month before the election. Investors’ focus on polls now "is absurd," he said.

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by by Patrick Gillespie and Jorgelina do Rosario, Bloomberg

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