Latin America

Macri promises to unite Argentineans as Kirchner officials snub swearing-in

Incoming president also pledges to eliminate poverty and destroy drug-trafficking groups

Carlos E. Cué
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, after his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday at Casa Rosada.
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, after his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday at Casa Rosada.MARCOS BRINDICCI (REUTERS)

President Mauricio Macri on Thursday promised to bring all Argentineans together and put an end to years of “useless confrontations” between the outgoing leftist Peronist government and conservative forces in the country.

The 56-year-old millionaire businessman was sworn in at Casa Rosada presidential palace in a ceremony that was not attended by outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner or other officials from her Front for Victory (FPV) leftist grouping.

There are sectors in this country that think differently but we are not divided” Argentinean President Mauricio Macri

However, Macri’s rival in the November 22 runoff race, Daniel Scioli, and the governor of the northern province of Salta, who are both Peronists, broke party ranks and were in attendance at the event.

“We will try to build a country that is united in diversity, and we seek everyone’s support – from the right, from the left, Peronists and anti-Peronists,” Macri told throngs of people who gathered outside the Casa Rosada to hear his inaugural speech. “This may sound incredible after years of useless confrontations but this is what millions of Argentineans want.”

Just days before the ceremony, Macri and Fernández de Kirchner had argued over where the ceremony should take place and who was legally authorized to organize it.

After Macri filed a complaint with the courts, Buenos Aires Judge María Servini de Cubría ruled that Fernández de Kirchner’s term was officially over at midnight Wednesday, which only fueled more drama relating to the rivalry between the country’s leftist and conservative forces.

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“There are sectors in this country that think differently but we are not divided,” said Macri from the palace balcony where Juan Perón and his wife Evita made speeches that inspired the masses 70 years ago.

The night before, thousands of Fernández de Kirchner’s supporters assembled at the same spot, the Plaza de Mayo, to hear their president’s farewell speech.

“Our challenge is to ensure that no one goes hungry in this country. If we motivated ourselves to come together we Argentineans will become unbeatable,” Macri told the crowds, with his 41-year-old wife Juliana Awada at his side.

But Macri may have trouble trying to make amends with Fernández de Kirchner’s supporters, who are angry at the judicial decision that cut her term in office short by 12 hours. The former president had argued that Macri’s term should begin at noon when she hands over the presidential sash and baton and it was her decision where to hold the handover of government. She wanted it to take place in Congress.

Cristina is stronger within the Peronist ranks than she was a week ago”

Former Buenos Aires governor Felipe Solá

Given her boycott of the event, ceremonial symbols were presented to Macri by acting Senate speaker Federico Pinedo, who had been appointed by the judge as provisional president during the 12-hour gap.

“You don’t try to grab a wounded tiger by its tail,” said Felipe Solá, a former Buenos Aires governor and a Peronist who has distanced himself from “Kirchnerism.”

“Today, Cristina is stronger within the Peronist ranks than she was a week ago and she is going to stay on as leader for several more months than expected,” Solá said.

Macri narrowly won the election race with 51.4% at the polls, compared to Scioli’s 48%. His Cambiemos (Let’s change) party failed to secure a majority in Congress.

Macri and his wife rode down Buenos Aires’ famous 1 de Mayo Avenue in a convertible with its top down waving at supporters who chanted: “We can do it, we can do it” and: “Argentina! Argentina!”

Macri will have to grapple with a poorly performing economy, rising poverty, and inflation close to 25%

The business-friendly Macri will have to grapple with a poor-performing economy, rising poverty, and an inflation rate close to 25%, according to some economic analysts.

Many Peronist supporters fear that the conservative leader will dismantle the social programs introduced by Fernández de Kirchner and her predecessor, her late husband Néstor Kirchner, over the last 12 years of “Kirchnerite” governments.

Macri said that his three goals will be to eliminate poverty, defeat drug-trafficking organizations, which have gained a stronghold in Argentina over the last few years, and unite all Argentineans.

“Today, we have a poverty rate that is unacceptable,” the president said. “The state is going to protect everyone – there will be no child that goes unprotected. We are going to make neighborhoods out of the poor shantytowns so that the lives of thousands of families can be changed.”

English version by Martin Delfín.

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