Argentina: the Populism-Lite of Macrismo Before The Elections

Macri increased the number of ministries. Now, attempting to reduce them again, the President turns to the agricultural sector within days of the primaries

Archival photo: The president at “Expoagro 2017”. In those days, the honeymoon continued with the countryside. The 2018 crisis reinstated the Kirchnerist retentions, and the sector became angry with the government (Twitter).


If there is one thing Mauricio Macri recognized, it was the ” excessive optimism ” that characterized the first year of his term. Although Cambiemos received a vast inheritance, the president trusted the advisors who sold him the “gradualism” and recommended him to avoid the fundamental reforms. The theory, which had already failed on several occasions, such as during the dictatorship under Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, discussed the “desirable” and the “possible.” For this idea, the lack of political strength ensured the inability to propose structural reforms so that corrections had to be limited to cosmetic issues.

Although the problem and the appropriate solution are recognizable, “gradualism” has its moments. Meanwhile, the external debt of international organizations that open their financing based on the anti-populist rhetorical intentions of these efforts finances the liabilities. As in the past, the program failed, and everything blew up.

While the fiscal deficit was in the background, Macri increased the number of ministries when he took office in December 2015. From the 16 portfolios left by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Cambiemos increased the number to 21. According to a report by the Freedom and Progress Foundation, Macrismo also created 17 secretaries of state (from 70 to 87) and exponentially increased the number of sub secretaries: from 169 to 2017.

Liberal criticism in the media and the 2018 crisis led Macri to “get his hands on” several issues. Some for the better, others for the worse. On the one hand, he returned to the agricultural retentions of Kirchnerism, reduced at the beginning of his tenure, but to compensate he reduced the number of ministries. Several portfolios lost ministerial rank and became secretariats. One of them is linked to the agribusiness sector, with Luis Miguel Etchevehere demoted from minister to secretary.

However, with rising taxes and the field of criticism, Macri goes back (redundancy is noteworthy) to one of his most notorious measures. The secretariat of Etchevehere has a ministerial role again, days before the primaries. The president will himself formalize the official announcement at the inauguration of the Rural Exhibition in Palermo next Saturday. Official sources assured PanAm Post that it is already prepared until the decree of the Executive Power.

What is striking is that the state has not finished correcting its accounts, and the next few years will bring complicated debt maturities with the option of renegotiation or default. However, the government considers it necessary to go back to the ministry that became the secretariat. The idea is to “pamper” the countryside a little, but the decision has its reasons. As the polls are tight and primaries are days away, Juntos por el Cambio hopes to secure the vote of the agricultural sector. It is quite a challenge since the producers should put Macri’s face on the ballot, but also that of Miguel Angel Pichetto: the head of the Kirchnerist bench during the crisis of the countryside and the retentions. However, the president knows that eventually, in a ballot, the countryside will make an effort to vote for a vice president who brings back bad memories, as long as they don’t vote for any other candidate, who is also running for vice president this year.

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