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ARGENTINA | 16-12-2023 06:01

Ramiro Marra: ‘The caste are those who insist on the same measures knowing that they’ll get the same results’

Buenos Aires City lawmaker and former mayoral candidate Ramiro Marra on La Libertad Avanza, his relationship with Javier Milei and why he isn’t a member of the new president’s government.

Ramiro Marra has enjoyed a meteoric political rise in just four years, similar to Javier Milei. It began in 2019 with Consenso Federal and Roberto Lavagna’s presidential candidacy. In 2021 he joined La Libertad Avanza as the top candidate for the Buenos Aires City Legislature, becoming its caucus chief after the midterms. 

This year, the 41-year-old ran as the libertarian party’s City mayoral candidate, obtaining 13 percent of the vote. In a feature interview, he explains that he will not be holding any post in the brand-new La Libertad Avanza government, nor will he be running for anything in 2025.

 

How do you evaluate La Libertad Avanza’s overtures to [ex-president Mauricio] Macri?

Firstly, I have a hard time seeing politics in personal terms, whether the Macris, the Kirchners or the Menems – those are concepts which we need to cut out in Argentina. There is a proximity to certain people such as Mauricio Macri, who is an ex-president, Patricia Bullrich or others.

 

Let’s do an “acordatio termini,” how would you categorise the so-called hawks, Mauricio Macri and Patricia Bullrich, the people most on the right wing of PRO?

As people who saw that our ideas were the correct ones which were not applied in their government and who saw an alternative to be able to accompany them with the emergence of our political grouping. Those people made their decision of wanting to back us in different ways and we, like the  good liberals we are, opened up the door to everybody who wanted to join.

 

Is it correct to say that at some point you were apprehensive that a certain contagion might make La Libertad Avanza lose its identity or dilute it? 

The identity of La Libertad Avanza is constituted on the basis of an ideology which is liberalism. And liberalism is a broad and pragmatic, not dogmatic ideology where I might determine its essence. I do not believe that there is any one owner of the essence of La Libertad Avanza, neither Javier [Milei], nor Victoria [Villarruel] nor myself – it’s something we all go constructing among ourselves. 

 

You mentioned Victoria Villarruel, everybody was expecting you to have a government post, something which I imagine you can confirm that you’re not going to have. 

No, I won’t be having any post at the national level.

 

Some analysts interpret the fact that neither the Security nor Defence Ministers are confidants of the vice-president as implying a certain distance between her and the President. Do you feel a certain parallel with your case, your not occupying any post and neither the Security nor Defence Ministers being confidants of Villarruel?

In my case in particular, my politics is not all about job-hunting, I never asked Javier for any post. I believe that my role has to be in the City of Buenos Aires, where I was the mayoral candidate and where I have a caucus of nine legislators and must focus on continuing to defend our ideas. I am, of course, always going to be at the President’s disposal because he is a friend and a person whom I respect as a co-founder of our party.

 

Was it always clear to you that you weren’t going to occupy a government post?

That chat constructed around Javier and myself never happened. My vision today is in the City, to accompany Javier Milei as the first militant of La Libertad Avanza at that level, as on the first day when we co-founded the party.

 

Let’s get away from personalities and move onto the meaning of  ideas. The “caste” was an idea related to people who have been in politics for a long time. Do you fear that the incorporation of people who might be catalogued as “caste” might somehow dilute the identity of La Libertad Avanza?

Those are the particular features of liberalism. Your definition of “caste”, which I respect, is not the same definition we use among ourselves. “Caste” are those who insist on the same measures knowing that they’ll get the same awful results. What we consider is the need to change the forms of governance. “Caste” antecedents are just not the issue. 

 

So can anybody stop being “caste”?

Of course, if they defend the correct ideas, which are the ones we are proposing, because those ideas have not been applied in Argentina.

 

So that the “caste” are those who do not think like you? 

No. “Caste” are those who always insist on the same. We all think differently, perhaps there are other ways of viewing politics and building governments. For now all I know is liberalism, which has not been applied, but if something else comes along, it won’t be “caste.” 

 

Is there a new rationale to Milei, or when you see analysts talking about pragmatism, are they overestimating or overrating the changes? Is it the same Milei of the elections who is now getting ready to take over the presidency?

It’s not the same because he is the President and has all the presidential honours. In ideological terms I do understand and know Javier and I know that he is the same person with the same moral and ethical values to defend what we are proposing as a new party in Argentina.

 

I’d like to hear your definition of liberalism.

I’m building it right now and I cannot give you any manual. I believe the most important thing we have is life and by life we understand the capacity to reason and think. That’s why we need to be freethinkers with nobody telling us what’s right and what’s wrong. What each one of us can construct for themselves and from that point we have liberty. Liberty consists of all of us being able to say what we think on the basis of reason and analysis.

 

You published a report at Bull Market [Brokers SA] which shook up the entire market with a series of forecasts which I’d like to explore more deeply. If I may, let’s start with this idea of [Economy Minister Luis] Caputo getting a loan of US$15 billion from Arab countries which would set up a fund permitting, along with other contributions, a neo-convertibility or devaluation. La Libertad Avanza have not confirmed this US$15 billion, do you have it confirmed? 

Firstly, I’d like to get one thing straight, I hadn’t seen that report previously. It did not have my approval nor contain any information which I had supplied. I’m merely a reader, as might happen to you in this newspaper when you read an article by a journalist who…

 

So it wasn’t you. 

No, of course not.

 

So that Bull Market report is not even going in the same direction as yourself?

No way, it’s not a report I had prepared, which is why I enquired about it. It was a private report for clients, which went viral in today’s world where it seems everything has lost its privacy.

 

But was it done by people enjoying your confidence? 

It was done by people working in my stock-broker’s firm, one of the most important in Argentina, where many analysts work receiving information which they want to share with their clients.

 

So what is your vision of the economic future, what would be your forecast?

The economic future, as we are seeing at present, will be very difficult in the short term because they are handing over to us a country in the worst possible condition. The challenge facing the government headed by Javier Milei with [Luis] ‘Toto’ Caputo as the Economy Minister will need everybody’s efforts. There is where we will need to have all Argentines understanding those circumstances. Afterwards, whether or not we get the money according to the presumed plan are questions which have to be answered by the Economy minister, not by me.

 

Do you imagine that dollarisation, some form of convertibility or a bi-monetary system will come to pass in the next four years?

I believe that there is both a campaign pledge and an economic reality leading towards that. The peso today does not meet the requisites for a currency and we Argentines have chosen the dollar for many transactions, our savings and also assessments. We might also end up in some other process. That would be odd because the dollar is very installed but in this dynamic economic process each person will be able to decide what currency to have. I believe this to be much broader than that “dollarisation” headline but if somebody wants to have Brazilian reais or Bitcoins, they may. And if somebody for some ideological reason wants to have Cuban pesos, they may also because nobody is going to forbid it. What we cannot permit is the continuation of this prohibited access to the free exchange of currency as known to the capitalist and developed world. 

 

Your today being a significant figure within La Libertad Avanza gives this report a different character to what it might have had a year ago. 

Of course, and that’s why I’m here replying and making all the pertinent explanations. 

 

What do you think of the possibility of a dual exchange rate for the dollar over a period of time until unification can be achieved? 

We’ve got a split exchange rate now and that must be corrected. The timing and the means… An economic team has been appointed which must work on putting an end to that. I don’t think anybody wants a split exchange rate system. The challenge facing Toto Caputo and his team is to end all that. Exactly when I would calculate to be whenever they consider it pertinent. I would not want to make any kind of statement which might make them feel that my opinion is at all relevant. 

 

That makes an interview difficult because you cannot express any opinion you might have on the economy, the dollar or the possible unification of foreign exchange markets ...

If you want, I will reply but do you know why it is so difficult? Because you’re accustomed to interviewing know-it-all politicians, political leaders who feel obliged to reply to everything and who do not respect the people in their own governments, being more anxious to make a headline. Our politics are different and since I was talking to you about the concept of liberalism and respect, I respect the appointed officials and if I have to give them my opinion, I’ll do so in private and not via an interview. 

 

Do you consider the Leliqs the first main problem to be solved? 

Yes and the most important thing is the fiscal issue but urgency is one thing and immediacy another.

 

How and when did you get to know Javier Milei? Tell us how that relationship evolved. 

I knew him as my professor at the Universidad del Salvador, a professor who of course caught my attention due to his great gifts and from then on I went following his media career where at some point we met and decided to found La Libertad Avanza as a new political party.

 

What year was that?

In 2005. 

 

How do you find Milei today? One thing is to have a dream and another to see it happen.

I find him like any ordinary Argentine who has arrived at the most important social role he could have with clear ideas and with sufficient conviction and strength to be able to make all the changes needed in Argentina. 

 

What is your opinion of the economic team? Did you know [Central Bank Governor Santiago] Bausili and Caputo beforehand and if so, how was your relationship with them in the past? 

I contacted them last year, in mid-2022, at a meeting where ... 

 

With the Caputo team.

With the Caputo team and with Toto himself, with whom we shared ideas and his administrative experience. I told them a bit about La Libertad Avanza’s political experience. 

 

And what is your opinion of their handling of 2018? 

Difficult to manage because it was crisscrossed by political interests which swept aside many of the technical and ideological decisions which had to be taken. Preponderance was given to politics. In the case of the La Libertad Avanza Cabinet, we are seeing people with a technical, not political profile and that speaks very well of this new administration and Javier Milei’s appointments. 

 

And what’s your opinion of [former Central Bank governor Federico] Sturzenegger? Caputo succeeded Sturzenegger in 2018 and now they’re speculating on the reverse in 2024 with Sturzenegger succeeding Caputo.

Similarly to Toto, I’ve had no relationship with Sturzenegger. I don’t want to be a futurologist, I hope that Toto ends his term as Economy minister very successfully. And if Sturzenegger has proposals and ideas, as commented, to add to our government, they would be very welcome. Obviously those names recall a certain slice of recent Argentine history but I believe that it is not so much the technicians who are responsible as the politicians. The technicians have good intentions and good ideas which are sometimes distorted by the personal ambitions of the politicians. 

 

I’m interested in your attitude towards others. La Libertad Avanza uses catchwords like, “caste” at one time, “argentinos de bien (“decent Argentines”)” and repeatedly “criminals,” which are controversial. Catchwords which can result in hurting some people or are ambiguous with nobody knowing what you are trying to say?

Before this interview began, I told you that I was a great reader and that I greatly respected what you do because I’ve been given the time to be able to reply in depth. The times in both the traditional media and today the social networks are very short and often reduced to catchwords. Behind every catchword there is a concept like the chainsaw where we were able to transmit an idea in a single word. That is simply because we have to adapt to the reality of where the market takes us.

 

Very interesting. So does the capacity of synthesis in the construction of these meanings turn out to be a competitive advantage?

Exactly, only because the market thus establishes. Unfortunately we do not have much time to go into depth in most of the interviews we give and sometimes it gets boiled down to that. You, as a  specialist, will also understand it in your own way.

 

Doesn’t “Argentinos de bien” stray from metaphysical ground as open to the interpretation that the others are bad if understood literally and not metaphorically?

The bad people are those who commit crimes, those who want us to keep going wrong, those with bad intentions and the inordinately ambitious. We decent Argentines, who are the vast majority, want to change Argentina, taking it to the other side. We who work hard or hunt for jobs without getting one due to current circumstances.  

 

Would “decent Argentines” be 99 percent of the population because less than one percent are in jail? 

I don’t consider the bad guys to be only those in jail but I look at their intentions and where they’re heading.

 

At a very rough guess, what percentage of Argentines do you think are decent people?

It seems to me that I do not have the power to give that kind of percentage because I do not know all 45 million Argentines.

 

Production: Melody Acosta Rizza & Sol Bacigalupo.

Jorge Fontevecchia

Jorge Fontevecchia

Cofundador de Editorial Perfil - CEO de Perfil Network.

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