Thursday, July 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 04-12-2023 18:00

Milei’s team for Congress: Martín Menem for lower house, Francisco Paoltroni in Senate

Heads of lower and upper houses will be libertarians “following democratic tradition of last 40 years,” says president-elect’s office;

President-elect Javier Milei has chosen to appoint two figures from his La Libertad Avanza coalition to preside over the upper and lower houses of Congress.

In the customary daily tweets from the “Office of the President-elect” on the X social media platform, Milei’s team confirmed that the two positions would belong to his own party. 

The statement said that Martín Menem, the son of former national senator Eduardo Menem and the nephew of former Argentine president Carlos Menem, would be the president of the Chamber of Deputies. Incoming senator Francisco Paoltroni would be the head of the Senate, it added.

The appointments close on the door on rumours that leading politicians from other parties would head both congressional chambers. 

Cristian Ritondo, one of the leaders of the hard-line sector of the opposition PRO party, and dissident Peronist Florencio Randazzo, who teamed up with outgoing Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti on a ‘third way’ presidential ticket, had been rumoured as potential leaders in the lower house.

Randazzo’s candidacy in particular had been pushed by incoming interior minister Guillermo Francos, who noted the potential for congressional agreement with sectors of non-Kirchnerite Peronism.

“As has historically been the case, the line of succession will consist of members of the ruling party,” said the release from Milei’s team, which said the appointments followed in the “democratic tradition of the last 40 years.”


Thorny environment

Congress will be a thorny environment for La Libertad Avanza, which has been trailing future measures even before legislative sessions begin on March 1. 

Milei, whose party will be a minority in Congress, is expected to call extraordinary sessions upon taking office on December 10 in order to embark on his sweeping reform plan.

Both Menem and Paoltroni will have their work cut out for them and will likely have to fight vote-by-vote if bills are to be passed.

This will be Menem’s first experience in the national legislature, although his family name carries significant historical weight both in Congress and in the Executive Branch.

Earlier this week, future foreign minister Diana Mondino said that Milei could look to issue urgent decrees to bypass both legislative chambers, should Congress prove an obstacle to reform.

Mondino admitted that “generating the necessary consensus” will require a lot of work. La Libertad Avanza has only seven senators out of 72 in the upper house and just 37 lawmakers in the 257-member Chamber of Deputies.

Last week, after Milei was officially confirmed by the Legislative Assembly as Argentina’s next president, vice-president-elect Victoria Villarruel met with authorities from the Unión por la Patria inter-congressional bloc and leaders of Encuentro Federal, dissident Peronists who have distanced themselves from the ruling coalition. 

Among those present were re-elected senators José Mayans, Juliana Di Tullio, and outgoing senator Anabel Fernández Sagasti.


New faces

Lawyer-turned-businessman Martín Menem, hailing from La Rioja, is the son of Eduardo Menem, a former senator for more than 20 years, and the nephew of former president Carlos Saúl Menem, who led Argentina for a decade from 1989-1999.

Menem Jnr, who was likely handpicked by Milei for the role, did not join the political scene until 2021. He was encouraged to do so by the president-elect after the duo crossed paths at private events.

Menem’s colleague in the upper house, Paoltroni, originally hails from Buenos Aires Province, but he settled in Formosa Province many years ago, where he worked as a cattle auctioneer.

He previously ran for governor in the region, challenging veteran Peronist Gildo Insfrán, and will occupy one of the eight La Libertad Avanza seats in the upper house.

Paoltroni, if his appointment is approved, will be third in the presidential line of succession. 

The fifth of six brothers, Paoltroni has worked in the countryside from a very early age, attending a rural school in Saladillo and starting at 12 years old, helping with the wheat harvest in Buenos Aires Province. 

At age 15 he started a fumigation business and then went on to study Agricultural Science in Azul, but dropped out. Years later, he finished his degree at the University of La Plata.

In 2008, he settled in the city of Formosa with his wife Romina, where he was appointed auctioneer. In 2018, he ran his farming consignee company Ganaderos de Formosa SRL, and later on with two partners he established Agroindustria de Formosa SRL.

His entry into the political world started after the 2021 PASO primaries, and he took the place of the Radicals as the leader of the main opposition forcé to Governor Insfrán.

To Paoltroni, Milei is like national football team coach Lionel Scaloni, who “made Argentina world champions, without experience.”



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