New Labour Minister Raquel ‘Kelly’ Olmos admitted that Argentina faces significant challenges ahead on Tuesday as she began outlining her aims.
Olmos, who is replacing the departing Claudio Moroni, said in an interview with the Metro 95.1 radio station, that the country's big issue is “the sector of salaried workers below the poverty line" as she promised to lead a ministry that is “on the side of the workers” that “takes care of the jobs and salaries.”
The new labour minister said that restoring purchasing power to pockets amid high inflation will be an arduous task. Recent weeks have seen a number of high-profile trade union disputes over wages with further difficulties likely to come.
"We have to stop high inflation, ensure that it does not affect the level of employment and that the injustice that exists does not deepen, especially among the most vulnerable sectors," said Olmos, who pointed out that "workers who receive a salary in pesos are the most affected" by price hikes.
Appointed at the express request of President Fernández, as she herself confirmed, Olmos is an economist and a long-standing member of the Justicialist Party (PJ) movement in the City. In the 1990s, she held a seat for City of Buenos Aires during the Carlos Menem era, and between 2007 and 2009, during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's first time in office, she served as Municipal Affairs secretary in the Interior Ministry under Aníbal Fernández.
"On Saturday, [former head of the Buenos Aires PJ] Juan Manuel Olmos called me and told me that Alberto thought it was a possibility for me to join the Cabinet, and on Sunday the president called me," she said.
"I have a long militancy in Peronism, I’m very close to the workers' movement. I have many friends there,” she added.
Quizzed about her relationship with the vice-president, the new minister sought to sidestep the issue.
"I worked for four years with [late former president] Néstor [Kirchner] and three with Cristina. The vice-president is a great leader of our movement, but I haven't had a direct relationship with her for some time," she revealed. "I don't need to ask Alberto's permission to talk to Cristina".
She added: "Comrades framed in La Cámpora or sectors linked to Cristina have congratulated me, they have called me, many of them.”
Olmos’ appointment to office came as something of a surprise. The 70-year-old, seen as close to Fernández and the PJ movement in the capital, was not among the names that had circulated frequently as rumours of Moroni’s departure spread.
Along with a degree in Economics (UBA) and a master's degree in Urban Economics (UTDT), the new official holds a postgraduate degree in Investment Project Formulation and Evaluation (INPE-OAS-CEPAL).
Prior to this latest move, she served as the vice-president of the Banco de Inversión y Comercio Exterior (BICE) and as a PJ national councillor.
The newly appointed labour minister, who is expected to take office in the next few days, is also a senior advisor and director of the Institute of Administration, Government and Economics of the National University of Tres de Febrero.
Once the news broke that Olmos would take over the Labour Ministry, criticism began to circulate on social networks over her role in the Menem government.
Defending her tenure, the new official said to Radio Con Vos in a separate interview that the Menem era “responded to a historic period, which was the fall of the Berlin Wall, which generated an important ideological confusion.”
During another interview with AM 750, Olmos said she expected to have good relations with the leadership of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) trade union umbrella grouping.
"I want to work with all the comrades of the workers' movement, as I have done all my life," she said.