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Macri-economics in Argentina

November 23, 2015

Mauricio Macri, Argentina's president-elect, has promised to introduce lasting changes to Latin America's third-biggest economy. While warming up to Western governments Macri has also vowed to further isolate Venezuela.

Mauricio Macri
Image: Reuters/I. Alvarado

Mauricio Macri beat his rival Daniel Scioli by less than three percentage points in elections held on November 22, ending 12 years of rule by the leftist Peronist movement, the broad populist movement that has dominated Argentine politics for much of the past 70 years.

With 99 percent of ballots counted, Macri had won with a marginal majority of 51.4 percent of the votes. Outgoing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has reportedly congratulated Macri.

Abolishing capital controls

The favored candidate of big businesses and foreign investors, Macri vowed to focus on an economic action plan to tackle slowing growth and soaring inflation in Argentina.

In his first news conference as president-elect, the 56-year-old stressed that the new government's economic policy would start with correcting errors he said had been committed by outgoing Fernandez during her eight-year-tenure. Above all, the pro-market president-elect criticized capital controls on the over-inflated peso currency as introduced by the previous government.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Argentina is taking a new direction after eight years of rule by Cristina Fernandez de KirchnerImage: Reuters/A. Arce

"Capital controls are a mistake. We will fix the fact that the government gives no information, there is no access to statistics and the central bank is not independent," Macri said.

Central bank reshuffle

Macri also urged Argentines to patiently wait for his government to define a new overall economic strategy, while calling on central bank officials, especially the bank's president, Alejandro Vanoli, to step down and allow the new administration to nominate a new team.

"We hope they have the dignity and generosity to allow the new government to choose its path by letting us chose people in which I and all my team hold trust," Macri added.

Extending the olive branch beyond Argentina

Mauricio Macri meanwhile acknowledged the need to reach out to rivals, calling for unity after his narrow election win, as Argentine voters laid bare the country's divisions.

Macri, a former executive at the popular Buenos Aires football club Boca Juniors, might struggle to get his liberal economic reforms past hostile parliamentarians. Having fought a tense battle for votes against his rival Daniel Scioli, Macri will lead the next government but will not have a majority in either house of Congress.

Mauricio Macri
Following his narrow win Mauricio Macri has called for unity in a divided ArgentinaImage: Reuters/I. Alvarado

"We Argentines know that we need to build the country we want and dream of together," he said.

Breaking with 12 years of leftist rule, Macri vowed to ease foreign trade and lift dollar restrictions. He is also expected to have a warmer relationship with Britain, after Kirchner had repeatedly attacked the United Kingdom in the territorial dispute over the Falkland Islands - referred to in Spanish as Las Malvinas.

Macri pledged to negotiate with foreign creditors who had sued Argentina in US courts for unpaid debts.

Tackling Venezuela

Among South American nations, Venezuela stood out in its reaction to Macri's victory. Venezuela's opposition took his win as a blow for leftists across Latin America and a good sign for change in upcoming parliamentary elections to be held in Venezuela in December.

Venezuela's ruling socialists, who had kept a political alliance with the Fernandez government, failed to comment on the change in government in Argentina.

Macri has repeatedly pressed in the past for Venezuela's suspension from Mercosur, the South American trade alliance, accusing President Nicolas Maduro's government of abusing the rights of opposition politicians.

ss/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)