Responding to rumours and resignations from his Cabinet, President Alberto Fernández reshuffled his pack on Monday, naming three new female ministers with “extensive experience" to his Cabinet.
The Frente de Todos leader tapped ally Victoria Tolosa Paz to head the Social Development Ministry, replacing Juan Zabaleta, who will return to the mayor's office in Hurlingham.
The president also chose to replace Labour Minister Claudio Moroni with experienced former government secretary Raquel ‘Kelly’ Olmos, with 32-year-old Ayelén Mazzina named Women, Gender and Diversity minister following Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta’s resignation last Friday.
In the communiqué issued by Casa Rosada, the government highlighted the appointment of "three women of different ages, geographical origins and extensive experience in their areas of reference.” It said the new ministers would “deepen the breadth of views” in the Cabinet.
Olmos and Tolosa Paz take charge of key ministries amid growing social unrest. Inflation totalled 56.4 percent between January and August this year and is now forecast to exceed 90 percent this year, wreaking havoc on wages and income.
Buenos Aires Province deputy Tolosa Paz, an ally of the president who led the Frente de Todos ticket in the region during the 2021 legislative elections, is the highest-profile appointment of the three.
A former candidate for mayor of La Plata, she is an accountant and was president of the National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies. Her husband, José Albistur, is one of Alberto Fernández's closest friends.
Tolosa Paz is the third official to hold the post since Fernández took office, following Daniel Arroyo and the outgoing Zabaleta, who is returning to the Hurlingham mayor’s office (from where he has been on leave).
The departure of Zabaleta, who has been at odds with social organisations and picket groups in recent months, has been rumoured for some weeks. Last week, sources told reporters that he was considering a return to his stronghold ahead of next year’s elections. He is said to be at odds with Damián Selci, his replacement, who is linked to La Cámpora.
Mazzina has held a similar position as women, diversity and equality secretary in her home province, San Luis. She was in charge of organising the recent 35th Plurinational Meeting of Women, Lesbians, Trans, Transvestites, Bisexuals, Intersexuals and Non-Binary People in Huarpe, Comechingón and Ranquel Territory, which recorded a huge attendance. She also served as a councillor in the capital of San Luis and is a professor of political science.
Until Monday, Olmos was the vice-president of the Bank of Investment and Foreign Trade (Banco de Inversión y Comercio Exterior, BICE). An economist, she is a former Buenos Aires City councillor and lawmaker. During Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's first government, she served as national secretary of Municipal Affairs between 2007 and 2009.
The president huddled with advisors at the Olivos presidential residence over the long weekend as he finalised the Cabinet changes and spoke to the new appointees.
Gómez Alcorta had jumpstarted events last Friday when she resigned her post in response to what she alleged were “serious” human rights violations committed during an operation undertaken by federal security forces in Villa Mascardi, Río Negro Province, against members of the Mapuche indigenous community.
Her departure accelerated Moroni’s resignation, government sources told the Noticias Argentinas news agency, who had already decided to leave his post for “personal reasons.” He has faced criticism from sectors of the trade union movement.
Reports of Tolosa Paz’s appointment to government circulated heavily over the weekend, though speculation was strongest over the vacant Labour Ministry post. Names rumoured to have been in the hat were Carlos Tomada, current ambassador to Mexico, and labour lawyer Héctor Recalde.
Marcelo Bellotti, Moroni's deputy, had also been rumoured to be part of a "continuity" appointment. In the end, Raquel Olmos, a figure who dates back to the Carlos Menem era, won out.
Since Fernández took office in December 2019, he has made 18 ministerial changes. Only five names have remained in place since the start of government.