1677415468 Agustin Rossi Argentina Chief of Staff Cristina Kirchner is suspended

Agustín Rossi, Argentina Chief of Staff: “Cristina Kirchner is suspended”

Agustín Rossi (Vera, 63 years old) was Minister of Defense for Cristina Kirchner and Alberto Fernández. A little over ten days ago, he left the management of the Federal Intelligence Service to become head of the cabinet. His appointment seemed inevitable: he maintains a dialogue with both the president and his vice-president, a couple that is not talked about that much today. Rossi has a tough job ahead of him, taking office when the Peronist government has only nine months in office and is facing elections marred by internal strife and the economic crisis.

Questions. Alberto Fernández is entering his final year in office. How do you take stock of what has been done since 2019?

Answer. I think it’s a very good government with many goals achieved. When it comes to economic issues, we have the problem of the half-full and half-empty glass. The degree of utilization is in the half-full glass. We found the country with 12% unemployment and today we are between 6 and 7%. Additionally, we grew over 10% in 2021 and about 5% in 2022, and we will continue to grow in 2023, albeit less. We have completed a three-year period of economic growth not seen in many years. At the expense of inflation and thus the decline in the purchasing power of wages.

Q Why Can’t Argentina Cope With Inflation?

R It is not a monocausal phenomenon. We receive the country with 54% inflation and inflationary inertia. We also have a bi-monetary economy. As we grow, the demand for imports increases. In addition, the war in Ukraine in 2022 brought us a large increase in the value of energy imports. All this affects the trade balance and reserves. When you impact reserves, the market begins to believe that devaluation will occur and expectations deteriorate. And in 2020 we pumped a number of pesos into the market with no economic activity.

Q What did you ask Economy Minister Sergio Massa when he took office?

R Away with the recomposition of the reserves, with creative recipes, the devaluation expectation. We had good courses in October, November and December and as with all these things, there are situations that did not allow us to continue on this path, such as the drought [que impacta en el ingreso de divisas producto de las exportaciones agropecuarias].

The head of the Cabinet of Ministers, Agustín Rossi, during the interview at the Casa Rosada on February 24, 2023.The head of the Cabinet of Ministers, Agustín Rossi, during the interview at the Casa Rosada on February 24, 2023. Enrique García Medina

Q Were you surprised by the 6% inflation recorded in January?

Q We didn’t like it. Minister Massa said this index annoys him. But as our grandmothers said: “Stumbling is not falling”.

Q The opposition say this government is leaving behind a time bomb. What is his answer to them?

R The opposition in Argentina should learn to be a little more moderate and that this moderation comes from their own responsibility. He was not born from a cabbage, he reigned until 3 years ago. If a candidate comes from Cambiemos and tells me that Argentina has to grow for ten years, I tell him that he has governed for four years and that there will be a recession in three years.

Q Didn’t the dispute between Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner worsen the economic situation even more?

R Definitely not. What happened in Argentina is a mutation of the political system. 40 years ago we reclaimed democracy from two political parties: the Radical Citizens’ Union [UCR] and the PFY [Partido Justicialista – peronismo]. Now we have two political coalitions instead. And coalitions are not made between like-minded people, but between like-minded people. This creates tension and debate. Both pro-government and opposition coalitions hold debates, often outdoors. I don’t think this has created any tension on the economic issue. Here are two coalitions that bring stability to the political system.

Q What are the differences within Peronism? One might think that Fernández and Kirchner think alike on many things.

R We had different views on what has to do with the speed at which politics moves and economic decisions are made. There was a very clear difference in the agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which is not exempt from the power struggle because it is also about a leadership issue.

Q Do you know what Cristina Kirchner wants?

R I’m not your spokesman. I talk to her, but I don’t comment on what I talk to her. It is clear that it has played a very important role in the articulation of this political space. In 2015 and 2017 this space, which we call Peronism, was an archipelago. Between 2015 and 2017 we approached positions. The moment Cristina says that she will not be a candidate and that she will accompany Alberto Fernández as runner-up, she unites all currents. That was crucial to the triumph of the 2019 election. I still believe that unity is not enough, but unity is essential.

Q Why didn’t Kirchner’s announcement of “I will not stand for election” in December have any unifying effect?

R In 2019 Cristina decides to design the architecture of the coalition and its formation. Today the verdict against Cristina [a seis años de prisión e inhabilitación por corrupción] it has prohibitive effects and therefore Cristina is ostracized.

Q But until the judgment before the Supreme Court is final, nothing prevents Kirchner from running for office…

R One must know which oxen to plow with. We’ve already seen what Lula’s experience was like. He skipped the obstacles to become a candidate until there was a verdict that deprived him of his freedom. The PT had to resort to a plan B [Fernando) Haddad como candidato y terminó ganando [Jair] Bolsonaro. What Cristina is doing is not likely to speed up the time of the proceedings, and what is now a sentence in the first instance becomes a final sentence, damaging the entire political space.

Agustín Rossi, Chief of Staff of Argentina, during the interview with EL PAÍS.  PHOTO ENRIQUE GARCIA MEDINAAgustín Rossi, Chief of Staff of Argentina, during the interview with EL PAÍS. PHOTO ENRIQUE GARCIA MEDINAEnrique García Medina

Q Will Peronism unite behind the candidate emerging from the October presidential primary?

R Definitive. We know we may have differences, but the differences with others are greater than what we have between us. There is also a problem: just as there is a liberal-democratic component in Together for Change, there is also a fascist component. That the president of the main opposition party [Patricia Bullrich, del PRO, el partido de Mauricio Macri]She did not condemn the assassination attempt on Cristina with concern.

Q Are you afraid of the rise of extreme figures like Javier Milei?

R The word is not fear, because I believe in the democratic reservoir of this people. If that were not the case, the 1985 film would have moved children who did not experience the dictatorship or the democratic spring [que rescata el juicio a los jerarcas de la dictadura]. But the growth of extremist and violent right-wing groups is a fact that can happen in Argentina and is already happening in the rest of the world.

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