In the midst of negotiations for to reach a new agreement with the IMF, Pope Francis on Saturday appointed Argentina's Economy Minister Martín Guzmán to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
In its official bulletin released on Saturday, the Vatican said that Francis "has nominated Professor Martín Maximiliano Guzmán, Minister of Economy of the Argentine Nation, as an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences."
Guzmán, 39, has been economy minister since 2019, when Alberto Fernández took office, and is leading talks with the International Monetary Fund. Buenos Aires is seeking to reschedule repayments on its US$44-billion debt and avoid default.
The local La Nación daily called the Pope's decision "a great endorsement" of Guzmán's credentials. The economy minister has already met with the Argentine pontiff on three occasions.
Argentina took out a record US$57-billion loan with the IMF during the government of the former president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019).
Upon taking office in December 2019, after defeating Macri, President Alberto Fernández waived the remaining tranches and the loan, hence the US$44 billion owed. Under the terms of the agreement made by Macri, maturities on the record credit line are particularly high in 2022 and 2023, at more than US$19 billion each year.
Guzmán has been negotiating a new agreement with the IMF since day one. Any deal is likely to be an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), replacing the current deal and lengthening repayment terms.
In the meantime, Argentina's government has pledged that any such agreement will have to be endorsed by a vote Congress, where no single party holds a majority following midterm elections earlier this month.