President Alberto Fernández has reshuffled his pack after a wave of rumours and resignations, naming three “militant women” with “extensive experience" to his Cabinet.
The Peronist leader on Thursday delivered the oath of office to the new officials who will lead the Labour, Social Development and Women, Gender & Diversity portfolios and called for the ruling Frente de Todos coalition to put aside internal disputes and promote “unity” ahead of next year’s general elections.
Fernández 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 replaced 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 earlier this month.
Olmos and Tolosa Paz take charge of key ministries amid growing social unrest in Argentina. 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.
Hosting an outdoor inauguration ceremony close to Government House on Thursday, the president used the event to praise the new arrivals and stress his message of unity.
“With these three women that we are incorporating into the Cabinet, we want to begin a new stage in this year that we have left of government,” he said in thinly veiled remarks that highlighted internal tensions. “If there is something that unites us with them, it is the conviction that we must be united above all things.”
Nearly 700 guests were present at the event, including most of the national Cabinet ministers, the leadership of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) umbrella union grouping and leaders of social movements, civil servants and provincial governors.
"Although they try to divide us, separation makes no sense. To win, as the [Peronist] march says, we must be united and settle our differences in unity and respect," declared Fernández, praising the union and social leaders who had decided to attend.
"I am very happy to see the union leaders together and also [social leader] Emilio [Pérsico] as part of the social organisations. We are all united because Argentina needs us. Let's get to work," concluded the president.
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).
Speaking Thursday, President Fernández said Tolosa Paz had been tapped for the position due to her “tireless” dedication and experience. She is one of the people “who knows the most in Argentina,” he declared.
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.
According to Fernández, the appointment will allow the government to better “listen to feminism” in the rest of the country.
"We want a country where inequality ends, where everyone's identity is respected, where women's rights grow, that is part of your task," he told the new minister.
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.
Speaking Thursday, the president praised Olmos’ “convictions” and dedication to her roles.
"She is a very good economist. I could see her ability in that area, she is a tireless worker. You're going to have a minister who is going to be doing much more than just the normal hours of the day," he added.
The president had 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 two Fridays ago 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.
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.