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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 14-05-2024 11:54

'Karinismo': President Milei's sister keeps gaining power in Argentina

Javier Milei’s Cabinet looks increasingly disjointed but his sister, presidential chief-of-staff Karina Milei, is accumulating more power and decision-making.

The wheels of the Cabinet of Argentina’s libertarian government are coming off at the same pace at which presidential chief-of-staff Karina Milei accumulates more and more power. President Javier Milei’s sister’s role as the boss of her brother’s political wing is increasingly visible.

Karina, 52, showed up earlier this month in Rosario with the aim of gathering signatures for party membership in Santa Fe Province, home to the country’s third-largest electorate, in order to confer party status on La Libertad Avanza in the region. Locally in charge is the deputy Romina Diez, who received the President’s sister with posters reading “Karinismo,” and “Santa Fe es de El Jefe,” a reference to Karina’s nickname: “The Boss.”

The image of Karina being welcomed in Santa Fe contrasted with that of a disjointed Cabinet riddled with noisy infighting back in Buenos Aires. Earlier that week, President Milei had shunned his team their previous meeting, with his place occupied by – who else – his sister. 

In official communications released after the meeting, Karina’s name was listed above Cabinet Chief Nicolás Posse, nominally the top figure of the national administration underneath the head of state.

Later, Karina headed a meeting with the PRO congressional caucus headed by Cristian Ritondo, where they spoke of the legislative agenda. The persistent rumours of a merger or alliance with the yellow party reportedly overhung all conversations.

Karina has been working for weeks with the two Menems – Eduardo ‘Lule’ Menem and Martín Menem – to construct the libertarian label at national level. La Libertad Avanza functioned as an electoral front last year but now the aim is to make it a national party. 

The President’s sister is at the heart of all these talks. Her consolidation as the chief of the political wing – with the assistance of spin doctor Santiago Caputo, Interior Minister Guillermo Francos and the Menem cousins – contrasts with the eroded dynamics of President Milei’s Cabinet. 

It is true that there have not been many Cabinet meetings recently due to presidential trips abroad, but government sources say it is also true that tensions have been accumulating.

The focus for now continues to be Posse, the Cabinet chief, who is often singled out as a “hardliner” in internal negotiations and is in charge of redirecting the allocations of the rolled-over 2023 Budget. 

Some sources point out that the turning-point in Milei’s relationsihp with Posse was the increase of the presidential salary, which was afterwards reversed. Public Employment Secretary Armando Guibert, who depended directly on Posse, was responsible for that move.

Also coming under fire recently is Economy Minister Luis Caputo, who suffered a harsh reverse at the hands of the companies of the electricity sector, who rejected the possibility of collecting their Cammesa debts via a bond. This included short circuits with the United States Embassy due to the US company AES feeling aggrieved.

On May 6, Defence Minister Luis Petri unexpectedly fired his Cabinet chief Carlos Becker, a figure close to Security Minister Patricia Bullrich. They may not be the only departures lined up.

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