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ARGENTINA | 18-09-2021 07:43

President Fernández caves to Fernández de Kirchner in Cabinet reshuffling

Appointments come just a day after Fernández de Kirchner called for an overhaul of the Cabinet in an open letter that blamed the president for poor results in last Sunday's PASO primaries.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández replaced his Cabinet chief a day after his vice-president publicly blamed him for the political crisis that has roiled the ruling coalition since it lost an election last Sunday. 

Juan Luis Manzur was named as the new Cabinet chief as part of a Cabinet reshuffling. Manzur, governor of Tucumán Province and a former health minister under the presidency of now-Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, will replace Santiago Cafiero, according to a statement sent by the president’s press office on Friday night. 

"I thank our president @alferdez and our vice-president @CFKArgentina for the trust placed in me to assume the position of Chief of Ministers of the Nation. I will always be where it is most useful to the Homeland and the Peronist movement," wrote Manzur in a post on Twitter.

The changes seek to dampen a political crisis unleashed by a damaging loss in midterm primaries held September 12, which exposed the differences in the ruling coalition Frente de Todos. 

The appointments come just a day after Fernández de Kirchner called for an overhaul of the cabinet in an open letter that blamed the president for the poor result in the midterm primary vote. In the letter, she said she had proposed Manzur for the Cabinet chief post in a face-to-face conversation with Fernández earlier in the week. 

Fernández de Kirchner, who chose Fernández to lead their Peronist coalition for the 2019 presidential elections, called the midterm primaries a “political catastrophe” caused by his economic strategy. She criticised him for his lack of social spending, adding pressure on Fernández even as he seeks to renegotiate a US$45_billion loan with the International Monetary Fund.  

The reshuffling includes changes to six minister-level positions while the economy and production ministers remain unchanged. Cafiero will become the foreign minister.  

“This Cabinet is just a response to internal demands to restructure the government’s team, and this is what came out of that,” said Lucas Romero, director of consulting firm Synopsis Consultores, in a phone interview. “The paths of the coalition and the government remain under pressure.”  

Fernández de Kirchner is likely not to be completely satisfied by the changes because the two key jobs in charge of setting the economic path, the economy and production development ministers, remained unchanged, Romero added.

Ministers named Friday will be sworn to their new roles on September 20 at 4pm local time. Several ministers aligned with Fernández de Kirchner, who had offered to resign Wednesday, including Interior Minister Eduardo 'Wado' de Pedro, remain at their current roles. 

Other new appointments include:

  • Aníbal Fernandez, a former Cabinet chief under Fernández de Kirchner, as security minister
  • Julian Domínguez as agriculture, livestock and fisheries minister
  • Jaime Perzyck as education minister
  • Daniel Filmus as science and technology minister
  • Juan Ross as communication and press secretary

Among those leaving office is President Fernández's chief presidential spokesman.

Communications Secretary and chief spokesman Juan Pablo Biondi posted an “indeclinable” resignation letter through a Twitter post on Friday evening. He was one of Fernández’s closest allies and advisers, and participated in top decision-making meetings. 

Fernández had told a local outlet earlier in the day that he was preparing changes to his cabinet. The changes would seek to damp a political crisis unleashed by a damaging loss in midterm primaries held September 12, which exposed the differences in the ruling coalition. 

Biondi was singled out Thursday evening in a letter by Fernández de Kirchner that alleged that he orchestrated media leaks that aimed to hurt her side of the coalition. In the letter, she also blamed Fernández’s economic policies for leading to the poor vote result. 

 

– TIMES/BLOOMBERG [Reporting by Jorgelina do Rosario & Patrick Gillespie]

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