The People Liberalizing Argentina, opinion by Mauro Echeverría.

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Overview

Argentina’s new paleolibertarian president, Javier Milei, took office on December 10, 2023, and introduced his inner circle: nine cabinet members and three high-ranking officials. These people are tasked with carrying out Milei’s plan to liberalize the economy by reducing public spending, cutting red tape, dollarizing, and promoting the rule of law.

On his first day in office, Milei designated the head of each ministry, along with his spokesman, general secretary, and chief of staff. Further, he reduced the number of ministries from 18 to nine: Economy, Human Capital, Justice, Security, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Infrastructure, and Health Care. Immediately, Argentina became the country with the fewest ministries in Latin America. Neighboring Chile and Uruguay have 24 and 14 ministries, respectively.

On December 12, Spokesman Manuel Adorni announced that the ministry reduced public-sector workers by 34 percent. However, he failed to provide further details.

The Three Closest to the President

Javier Milei’s sister Karina, whom Javier refers to as “the boss” (el jefe) is his general secretary. She is in charge of providing information, advising, and assisting the president in administrative processes. Karina—who holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations—also supports the president with policy making. Argentine journalist and Milei biographer Juan Luis González claims Karina is “the only person who has stood by Javier’s side for his entire life.”

Journalist and economist Adorni is the president’s spokesman, in charge of announcing and explaining presidential decisions. As someone who has consistently criticized Kirchnerista policies and their results, Adorni has collaborated with multiple local and regional outlets such as Infobae or Ámbito. This far, Adorni has engaged with the press at least daily to provide updates on the Milei administration’s policies and agenda.

Milei chose Nicolás Posse, a man the president describes as a friend, as his chief of staff. He is an industrial engineer with experience in six companies, including Red Bull, Telecom Argentina, and Interbaires Duty-Free Shop. In addition to heading coordination with the nine ministers, Posse will be the executive’s intermediary with Congress. Posse is also an adviser to Milei and manages the presidential budget.

The Nine Ministers

Economy: Minister Luis “Toto” Caputo has experience in both the private and public sectors. Under the Mauricio Macri administration (2015–2019), he served as finance minister and president of the Central Bank. The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) is investigating Caputo for being a shareholder in a company in the Cayman Islands during the Macri administration and not reporting it to the Anti-Corruption Office. This is potentially a crime because of Article 6 of the Ethics Law for Public-Sector Workers. The latter requires a sworn statement of assets for any state worker.

Interior: Minister Guillermo Francos founded the conservative party Action for the Republic in 1996, and he was a congressman for the party between 1997 and 2000. After being a public servant, Francos became the president of the aviation company LAPA. In 2019 then President Alberto Fernández appointed Francos as Argentina’s representative at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). Francos quit the IADB job in August 2023 to join Milei’s electoral campaign.

Security: Minister Patricia Bullrich, a candidate in the first round of the 2023 presidential election with the Together for Change coalition, was security minister under the Macri administration. When she was a teenager, Bullrich was a member of the Peronista Youth, a political organization that supported populist President Juan Domingo Perón. Later she became a member of center and right-leaning parties before joining Macri’s Together for Change.

Defense: Minister Luis Petri, who was Bullrich’s vice presidential candidate in the first round of the 2023 presidential election, is a former Congressman (2013–2021). During that time he promoted Law 27,375, which bans penalty reductions for criminals who have committed serious crimes such as homicide or terrorism.

Infrastructure: In contrast with Bullrich and Petri, Minister Guillermo Ferraro was on Milei’s team from the beginning of the electoral campaign. Between 2010 and April 2023, Ferraro was the infrastructure and governance director at KPMG, a multinational consultancy. Ferraro, Posse, and Milei worked together at a private-transportation initiative, Aconcagua Corridor, in the 2010s.

Foreign Affairs: Minister Diana Mondino has experience in the private sector as a program director at CEMA University in Buenos Aires and as a director at Supervielle Bank. Her mission is to integrate Argentina into the world, especially in terms of trade and business.

Justice: Minister Mariano Cúneo Libarona is a lawyer with over 40 years of experience. In 2015 he was a candidate to be president of Racing, one of the largest soccer clubs in Argentina, but he lost. In a November interview with Continental Radio, Cúneo Libarona revealed that Milei specifically asked him to promote independent justice and division of powers.

Human Capital: Minister Sandra Pettovello, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and family sciences, has exclusively private-sector experience. In addition to being a columnist and TV producer, Pettovello has conducted academic research on family topics such as fatherhood and business. One of her main proposals is education vouchers, so-called school choice, in Argentina.

Health Care: With over three decades of experience, Minister Mario Russo is a cardiologist who has worked in the private and public sectors. He worked in the Italian Hospital and the Fleni Clinic, both in Buenos Aires. From 2009 to 2015 he was the health secretary of the San Miguel municipality in the Buenos Aires province. His last public-sector position was under the Alberto Fernández administration: governmental-relations director at the state-owned sewage company AySA between 2020 and 2022.

The Impact Felt Immediately

Although they have been in office for only one week, some of the ministers have already taken concrete actions to change Argentina’s course. On December 12, for example, Economy Minister Caputo announced 10 policies to “neutralize” the Argentine economic crisis:

Expiration of any labor contract the state signed in the past year.

Suspension of all government advertisements in the media for the next year.

Reduction of ministries from 18 to nine.

Reduction of funds from the federal to local governments “to a bare minimum.”

Cancellation of state procurement processes and works that have yet to start.

Reduction of energy and transportation subsidies.

Maintenance of social transfers through the Potenciar Trabajo (work promotion) program. It provides direct transfers of 78,000 pesos to disabled people and the elderly. The program also provides training to workers and small-business owners.

Establishment of the peso’s official exchange rate at 800 per US$1. It was 382.

Termination of government software for imports. Companies will not require permission from the government to import, explains Caputo.

A 50 percent increase to the value of state transfers via the Alimentar food program, which has no intermediaries.

Although Caputo did not provide further details, local media outlets expect him to do so within a few days. Further, he failed to mention anything about the dollarization of the economy, one of Milei’s most prominent proposals on the campaign trail.

On December 14, the defense minister’s X account announced the seizure of 8 kilograms of cocaine in Córdoba. In addition, Bullrich announced the arrest of the man who threw a bottle at Milei during his December 10 inauguration. Minister Mondino has also confirmed that Argentina will not join the BRICS block.

These are early days. We know neither the extent of the policies Milei’s cabinet will apply nor the success they will achieve.

However, the appointments are a mix of individuals who are not necessarily classical liberal or libertarian, and almost all of them have extensive government experience. This suggests some pragmatism and incrementalism towards the task at hand of underlying market liberalization for Argentina, rather than the shock therapy that might have been anticipated by voters and foreign observers. The cabinet must overcome aggressive opposition from labor unions and other groups vested in the status quo, so perhaps this challenge compelled hands-on experience rather than ideological affinities.

The opinion of this article is foreign to Noticiero el Vigilante.

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