Hurlingham Mayor Juan Zabaleta will be Argentina’s next social development minister, sources close the Presidency have confirmed.
Zabaleta, 54, is one of the mayors considered closest to President Alberto Fernández. He is also, however, a figure who has clashed with La Cámpora in his district.
If ‘Albertismo’ exists, Zabaleta is its main reference point. When internal disputes arise within the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, the mayoral leader becomes one of the president’s main weapons, even when Fernández himself doesn’t want to fight. This loyalty has seen Zabaleta’s name ring out when there have been disagreements within the Cabinet, but only now with the Haedo-born politician have a position in his friend Alberto’s government.
The position was quietly offered to Zabaleta weeks ago, when Fernández decided that Daniel Arroyo would stand as a candidate for national deputy, but his appointment was only confirmed last week. "In this government there are vetoes," said one veteran political leader, addressing Zabaleta’s path to his new portfolio. Kichnerismo had to approve the decision.
Zabeleta’s route to a Cabinet slot has not come easy. During talks about the make-up of PASO lists, he clashed with members of La Cámpora over candidates for councillors in his district. With the Cabinet post already offered to him, he resisted giving up slots to Kirchnerite figures and leaving his terrain in the hands of the militant youth grouping. Eventually it was decided that there would be no split ticket and that the top slot would respond to the mayor and the second slot would be La Cámpora’s. The negotiations went even further. Zabaleta made sure there would be no veto of his move to the Social Development Ministry.
Zabaleta became mayor of Hurlingham in 2015, after previously having been elected councillor. Before that, he had passed through the Senate and the ANSES tax agency. In the 2017 election campaign he was, along with Alberto Fernández, initially part of Florencio Randazzo’s team. After the PASO primaries, he offered his support to the Unidad Ciudadana party, the party that got Cristina Fernández de Kirchner elected as a senator.