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ARGENTINA | 18-09-2021 08:52

Political crisis and PASO loss forces president into reshuffle

President Alberto Fernández announced a new Cabinet on Friday in a bid to smother a political crisis that pitted him bitterly against his vice-president this week after an electoral defeat in legislative primaries.

President Alberto Fernández announced a new Cabinet on Friday in a bid to smother a political crisis that pitted him bitterly against his vice-president this week after an electoral defeat in legislative primaries.

The reshuffle came one day after Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner wrote an open letter to Fernández demanding one, fruther deepening the crisis gripping the ruling coalition after their poor showing in the weekend primaries.

Juan Manzur, governor of Tucumán Province, will take over as Cabinet chief from Santiago Cafiero, one of the president's closest allies, the presidency announced.

Cafiero instead became foreign minister, replacing Felipe Solá, who is in Mexico at present for the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, which begins on Saturday. 

Due to the crisis, Fernández cancelled his visit to Mexico for the summit and won't attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week either.

The new ministers joining the Cabinet, who will be sworn in on Monday, are veteran politician Aníbal Fernandez (Security), Julian Domínguez (Livestock, Agriculture & Fisheries), Juan Perzyck (Education) and Daniel Filmus (Science and Technology). 

Juan Ross was also appointed as the new Secretary of Communication and Press, replacing Juan Pablo Biondi, whom the vice-president had openly rejected and accused of organising "off-the-record operations." 

The Peronist government has been going through its most acute crisis yet this week after the weekend's legislative primary elections, in which the ruling Frente de Todos coalition won only 31 percent of the votes at the national level. 

These results put the ruling party's majority in the Senate at risk in midterm elections on November 14, as well as any majority in the Chamber of Deputies, with two years of the Fernández-Fernández de Kirchner mandate still to run.

The crisis broke out earlier this week, after Interior Minister Eduardo 'Wado' de Pedro and four Cabinet ministers offered to step down after a poor showing for Frente de Todos in weekend primary elections. The officials were all close to Fernández de Kirchner and the move was seen as her attempt to put pressure on Fernández to reshuffle his pack.

"Do you seriously believe that it is not necessary, after such a defeat, to publicly present the resignations and that those in charge facilitate the president to reorganise his government?" Fernández de Kirchner wrote in an extraordinary open letter, in which she also criticised officials who "cling to their chairs." 

In the end, De Pedro and the other ministers kept their posts.

The centre-right Juntos coalition of ex-president Mauricio Macri, obtained 40 percent of the votes cast nationwide on Sunday.  It critically made great strides in Buenos Aires Province, the country's largest electoral district and considered a bastion of Fernandez's party.

Fernández took power from the incumbent Macri in 2019.

Public discontent with his government has been growing in a country in recession since 2018 and a GDP drop of 9.9 percent last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Argentina has one of the world's highest inflation rates, at 29 percent from January to July this year, and a poverty rate of 42 percent.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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