The first Cabinet change in 11 months of the Alberto Fernández presidency materialised Wednesday with the resignation of Housing Minister María Eugenia Bielsa following several days of rumours.
According to sources cited by the Noticias Argentinas news agency, Avellaneda Mayor Jorge Ferraresi – barred from re-election by current legislation due to being in his third consecutive term – is being lined up to replace her.
In contrast to presidential loyalist Bielsa, the new minister is strongly identified with Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who attended his mayoral inauguration 11 months ago. Sources inside Government House however told the same agency that President Fernández valued "administrative experience" to implement housing plans. Ferraresi met with the president last Thursday, according to reports.
Despite great expectations and the central importance attributed to the problem of housing shortages, Bielsa’s ministry was stillborn with the rapid arrival of the coronavirus pandemic creating other priorities, local outlets reported.
Ferraresi will be taking leave as mayor, relinquishing Avellaneda City Hall to the top name on the Frente de Todos list of municipal council candidates. That would be his Cabinet Chief Alejo Chornobroff but since he is expected to accompany Ferraresi into the Ministry, La Cámpora leader Sabrina Rearte will be taking over Avellaneda City Hall as next on that list.
Until now the exit of Alejandro Vanoli from the helm of ANSES social security administration in late April had been the only major change in the original Frente de Todos team.
Ferraresi will be seconded by another municipal boss – Navarro Mayor Santiago Maggiotti, linked to Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, will be deputy minister.
While Ferraresi maintains certain tensions with some Frente de Todos sectors both beyond and within Kirchnerismo, he is the man who has been chosen to announce the government’s new housing plans based on his administrative experience, where Bielsa was found wanting, with Public Works Minister Gabriel Katopodis (mayor of General San Martín until last year) seen as the model.
The Procrear housing scheme for the middle classes (which has run into delays) and the construction of social housing on unused state land for lower incomes are seen as two spearheads for solving the problem of shortages following the proliferation of squatter conflicts nationwide in recent months amid intense media coverage.
According to reports, Bielsa has been offered the UNESCO ambassador post, which is now vacant following the death of Fernando 'Pino' Solanas last week.