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ARGENTINA | 10-12-2019 00:45

The chosen ones: Who's who in Alberto Fernández's Cabinet

President-elect unveiled his team at press conference on Friday in Puerto Madero. Here's a guide to who's who in the incoming administration.

Alberto Fernández announced the members of his future Cabinet Friday night, a step that was eagerly anticipated by those eager to gain insight into what the president-elect’s agenda will be once he takes office on December 10. 

“Everyone that accompanies me has worked with me and I am confident in their moral quality and their technical capability,” the president-elect said in a televised press conference from his headquarters in Puerto Madero on Friday. 

Fernández said his Cabinet reflects the “base of unity” between various blocs that characterise his Frente de Todos coalition. 

During the speech, the president-elect – whose vice-president will be former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – spoke briefly about each of his appointees, but a few are of particular note given Argentina’s current socioeconomic and regional realities. 

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Cabinet Chief, Santiago Cafiero
Vice-Cabinet Chief, Cecilia Todesca Bocco

Starting at the top, the future Cabinet Chief will be (as long expected) Santiago Cafiero, who will steer the president-elect’s closest group of advisors. A member of the incoming leader's Grupo Callao think-tank, Fernández has said the 40-year-old has the “necessary condition” for the job.

Cafiero is grandson of the late Antonio Cafiero, Buenos Aires Province governor from 1987-1991 and a junior minister in the first Peronist administrations (1946-1955). He first met Alberto Fernández in the 2017 senatorial campaign of ex-minister Florencio Randazzo, representing the Partido Justicialista (Justicialist Party, PJ) against the Unidad Ciudadana (Civic Unity) ticket headed by ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a campaign managed by Fernández against his future vie-president.

He will be seconded by Cecilia Todesca, 48, the daughter of outgoing INDEC national statistics bureau chief Jorge Todesca. She was a dark horse to be economy minister at an earlier stage and has been a key economic advisor to Fernández.

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Economy Minister, Martín Guzmán
Productive Development Minister, Matías Kulfas
Agriculture, Livestock & Fishing Minister, Luis Basterra

The Economy Minister, the head of a key portfolio, was the longest in doubt, finally going to newcomer Martín Guzmán, 37, a sidekick of 2001 Nobel Economics Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz at Columbia University and a strong critic of austerity who has advised the United Nations General Assembly on restructuring sovereign debt.

The latter field will be his main focus, especially negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, while most other aspects of the economy, especially the productive sector, will be handled by Productive Development Minister Matías Kulfas, 47, (the initial favourite to head the Economy Ministry alongside Todesca), who has been a director at both Banco Nación and the Central Bank.

Farming will have its own ministry with Formosa national deputy and agricultural engineer Luis Basterra, 61, the new Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Minister.

Guzmán will have to get to work quickly. “I have consulted him a great deal already about the problems Argentine has relating to its debt,” said Fernández at his press conference Friday. Guzman will move from back to his hometown, Buenos Aires, from Columbia University.

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Felipe Solá, Minister of Foreign Relations

On paper Felipe Solá, 69, might have seemed a suitable candidate for Agriculture minister, a portfolio he covered throughout the 1989-1999 Carlos Menem presidency. Buenos Aires governor from 2001 to 2007, he clashed with then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner the following year over grain export duties and was a dissident Peronist from then until this year, allied to future Speaker Sergio Massa from 2013 to 2018.

A political veteran but with no known experience in the diplomatic field – despite which he is the new Foreign Minister, for which he had been tipped for weeks. Fernández didn't hold back in praising him, describing Solá as having been "an exceptional governor [... who has] has enormous experience."

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Interior Minister, Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro
Environment & Social Development Minister, Juan Cabandié

Eduardo “Wado” De Pedro, 43, is the future Interior Minister and the senior representative of the Kirchnerite 'La Cámpora' youth grouping (of which he is a founding member) in the new Cabinet – Cristina Fernández de Kirchner reportedly insisted on his presence in that portfolio as the nexus between federal and provincial governments, in order to keep an eye on relations between Alberto Fernández and the provincial governors. A lawyer and national deputy, and the child of missing parents, he sits on the Magistrates Council. He played a key role in Pedro bringing Kirchnerite blocs into the Frente de Todos coalition.

Another member of La Cámpora joining the government will be Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Juan Cabandié, 41 and also a child of missing parents, who headed the Victory Front caucus in the City Legislature before moving to national Congress in 2013.

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Defence Minister, Agustín Rossi
Social Development Minister, Daniel Arroyo

Agustín Rossi, 60, now returns to the Defence Ministry which he had already previously headed between 2013 and 2015. The main aim of this move, according to reports, is to take him out of Congress. His 10 years as a Kirchnerite caucus leader might make him the natural candidate to head Frente de Todos in the lower house Chamber of Deputies – instead of Máximo Kirchner. The returning Defence Minister has also fought five elections at provincial and national level in his native Santa Fe and lost them all.

Daniel Arroyo, 53, has long been recognised as an expert in social policy and now becomes Social Development Minister. A national deputy, he co-founded Red por Argentina with Solá last year as a breakaway caucus from Massa’s Frente Renovador (Renewal Front).

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Health Minister, Ginés González García
Education Minister, Nicolás Trotta
Vice-Education Minister, Adriana Puiggrós

The other ministers making up the traditional HEW (health, education and welfare) trident underlying social policy are Ginés González García as Health Minister and Nicolás Trotta for Education Minister.

A surgeon, González García, 74, is a rare example of a health minister who is actually a member of the medical profession. He had already been the minister from 2002 to 2007 but upon becoming president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner opted not to keep him on, sending him across the Andes to be ambassador in Chile for the next eight years.

Trotta, 43, arrives at the Education Ministry as the chancellor of UMET (Metropolitan University for Education and Work) who has made frequent television appearances. Adriana Puiggrós, 78, a veteran ex-lawmaker and official for both national and provincial governments, is her second.

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Science & Technology Minister, Roberto Salvarezza
Culture Minister, Tristán Bauer

Science and Technology is now restored to ministerial status but for the first time since its creation in 2007 it will not be under Lino Barañao. Biochemist Roberto Salvarezza, 67, with long experience in CONICET (the national scientific research council) and with a recent interest in nanotechnology, now moves from Congress to become the new Science & Technology Minister.

Allied to education and also recovering ministerial status is Culture, which will now be headed by filmmaker Tristán Bauer, 60, who ran public media during the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner presidency.

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Labour Minister, Claudio Moroni
Transport Minister Mario Meoni
Minister of Housing and Territorial Development, María Eugenia Bielsa

The Labour Ministry, traditionally a core area in any Peronist government, goes to Claudio Moroni, 60, who is not a trade unionist but a lawyer who has held various important bureaucratic posts in AFIP tax bureau (which he briefly headed), ANSES social security administration and SIGEN comptrollers, also working with fellow-lawyer Alberto.Fernández in the Insurance Superintendancy in Carlos Menem years (1989-1995).

The Public Works Ministry, which was merged with Transport as a byword for corruption under the Mauricio Macri presidency, is now restored under Gabriel Katopodis, 52, mayor of San Martín since 2011 and almost the last of Massa’s mayoral allies to desert him.

Transport also remains a Ministry with another former mayoral ally, Mario Meoni, 54, the Radical mayor of Junín from 2003 to 2015, to replace Guillermo Dietrich.

Supplementing those two ministries is a new Housing and Territorial Development Ministry, which goes to architect María Eugenia Bielsa, 61, sister of current Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa and former foreign minister Rafael, Bielsa a former Santa Fe lieutenant-governor who has worked in that area and in urban planning in Rosario.

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Security Minister, Sabina Frederic

The Security Ministry will remain in female hands with CONICET anthropologist, Sabina Frederic, 54, replacing Patricia Bullrich although unlikely to cultivate her predecessor’s “tough on crime” image as a strong Kirchnerite.

Taking a swipe at Macri and Bullrich', Fernández said at his press conference that he and Frederic would work together from day one to “preserve the rights of everyone without the need to authorise that someone shoots someone else in the back.” The incoming official is reportedly known as an expert in public policy pertaining to security forces.

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Justice & Human Rights Minister, Marcela Losardo
Women, Gender & Diversity Minister, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta
Tourism & Sports Minister, Matías Lammens

The Justice and Human Rights Ministry goes to lawyer Marcela Losardo, 61, who had already been Justice Secretary between 2005 and 2009 in Kirchnerite times.

Women now have their own ministry under the new president – Women, Gender and Diversity under lawyer Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, 47, a member of CELS (Centre for Legal and Social Studies) human rights organisation and a deputy co-ordinator of the Justice Ministry’s Memory, Truth and Justice programme during the Kirchnerite era.

Finally, political newcomer Matías Lammens, 39, president of San Lorenzo football club, is given a consolation prize for this year´s uphill electoral battle against City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta in the form of the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

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Secretary General to the Presidency, Julio Vitobello
Legal & Technical Secretary, Vilma Ibarra

Strategic Affairs Secretary, Gustavo Béliz

Working directly under Alberto Fernández will be presidential Chief-of-Staff Julio Vitobello, Legal and Technical Secretary Vilma Ibarra and Strategic Affairs Secretary Gustavo Beliz.

Lawyer Vitobello headed two watchdog agencies – SIGEN comptrollers and the Anti-Corruption Office – somewhat passively during the Kirchner presidencies.

Ibarra, 59, sister of 2000-2006 City Mayor Aníbal Ibarra and a former girlfriend of Alberto Fernández, has served in both houses of Congress,

Gustavo Beliz, 57, has a political career stretching back three decades, starting in 1989 as the head of Menem’s civil service as Public Administration Secretary at the age of 27. He then advanced to Interior Minister (1992-1993), after which he was Domingo Cavallo’s running-mate in the 2000 City mayoral elections. Then he became Néstor Kirchner’s first Justice Minister (2003-4), spending most of the following years in the United States.

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Treasury Attorney, Carlos Zanini
Head of INADI anti-discrimination watchdog, Victoria Donda

The new Treasury Attorney is Carlos Zanini, 65, a Maoist revolutionary in his youth (imprisoned 1975-1978) who held Vilma Ibarra’s new job throughout the three Kirchner presidencies (2003-2015), at the end of which he was made 2015 Peronist presidential candidate running-mate to keep a Kirchnerite foot in the door but the ticket lost to Macri.

Victoria Donda, 42, born in the notorious ESMA Navy Mechanics School concentration camp during the military dictatorship and thus a human rights activist from birth in a manner of speaking. She has been a deputy since 2007 (in and out of Kirchnerismo) and now becomes head of the INADI National Institute against Discrimination.  

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Head of AFIP tax agency, Mercedes Marcó del Pont
Head of National Council for Social Policy, Victoria Tolosa Paz

Economist Mercedes Marcó del Pont, 60, a cousin of outgoing Interior Minister Rogelio Frigero’s father Octavio, was a Victory Front deputy (2005-2008) before heading both the Banco Nación (2008-2010) and the Central Bank (2010-2013) when she was the boss of its new governor Miguel Pesce, during the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (to whom she remains close) and now becomes chief of AFIP tax bureau.    

Victoria Tolosa Paz, 44, an accountant, has never worked outside the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata but is close to Alberto Fernández via her millionaire husband, former Kirchnerite Media secretary Enrique Albistur. On the night of the August 11 PASO primary she was declared the winner among five La Plata Peronist mayoral hopefuls over Cristina Kirchner’s favourite candidate Florencia Saintout, who somehow managed to reverse the result a few days later but then lost to La Plata Mayor Julio Garro. She now heads the new Federal Council for Social Policy.

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Head of AYSA state waterworks company, Malena Galmarini
Head of PAMI social security agency, Luana Volnovich 

Malena Galmarini, 44, Sergio Massa’s wife and the daughter of Menem’s Sports secretary Fernando Galmarini, had loftier ambitions but will now head AYSA state waterworks. Active in the municipal politics of Tigre long after her husband ceased to be its mayor in 2013. 

PAMI, responsable for the healthcare and other social services of pensioners, goes to Luana Volnovich, 40, who was born in Rio de Janeiro and does not have a long curriculum vitae before 2015 when she entered Congress but is high up in La Campóra and has been romantically linked to Máximo Kirchner.

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A full list of the incoming cabinet is below: 

  • Cabinet Chief, Santiago Cafiero
  • Vice-Cabinet Chief, Cecilia Todesca Bocco
  • Agriculture, Livestock & Fishing Minister, Luis Basterra
  • Environment & Social Development Minister, Juan Cabandié
  • Science & Technology Minister, Roberto Salvarezza
  • Culture Minister, Tristán Bauer
  • Defence Minister, Agustín Rossi
  • Productive Development Minister, Matías Kulfas
  • Social Development Minister, Daniel Arroyo
  • Minister of Housing and Territorial Development, María E. Bielsa
  • Economy Minister, Martín Guzmán 
  • Education Minister, Nicolás Trotta
  • Vice-Education Minister, Adriana Puiggrós
  • Interior Minister, Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro
  • Justice & Human Rights Minister, Marcela Losardo
  • Women, Gender & Diversity Minister, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta
  • Public Works Minister, Gabriel Katopodis
  • Foreign Minister, Felipe Solá
  • Health Minister, Ginés González García
  • Security Minister, Sabina Frederic
  • Labour Minister, Claudio Moroni
  • Transport Minister Mario Meoni 
  • Tourism & Sports Minister, Matías Lammens
  • Strategic Affairs Secretary, Gustavo Béliz
  • Secretary General to the Presidency, Julio Vitobello
  • Legal & Technical Secretary, Vilma Ibarra
  • Treasury Attorney, Carlos Zanini
  • Head of INADI anti-discrimination watchdog, Victoria Donda
  • Head of AFIP tax agency, Mercedes Marcó del Pont
  • Head of National Council for Social Policies, Victoria Tolosa Paz
  • Head of AYSA state waterworks company, Malena Galmarini 
  • Head of PAMI social security agency, Luana Volnovich 

– Times, with reporting from Michael Soltys, James Grainger and Carly Graf.

related news
) Santiago Cafiero, Cecilia Todesca Bocco, Luis Basterra, Juan Cabandié, Roberto Salvarezza, Tristán Bauer, Agustín Rossi, Matías Kulfas, Daniel Arroyo, María Eugenia Bielsa, Martín Guzmán, Nicolás Trotta, Adriana Puiggrós, Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro, Marcela Losardo, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Gabriel Katopodis, Felipe Solá, Ginés González García, Sabina Frederic, Claudio Moroni, Mario Meoni, Matías Lammens, Gustavo Béliz, Julio Vitobello, Vilma Ibarra, Carlos Zanini, Victoria Donda, Mercedes Marcó del Pont, Victoria Tolosa Paz, Malena Galmarini, Luana Volnovich 

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