BUENOS AIRES – Argentina got a new economy minister late Sunday, a day after the abrupt resignation of her predecessor shook the governing coalition at a time it was already facinga crisis of unity.
Gabriela Cerruti, the presidency’s spokesperson, wrote on Twitter late Sunday that Silvina Batakis will now head the Economy Ministry, replacing Martín Guzmán.
The pick could be crucial for the administration of President Alberto Fernández as it faces sharp internal divisions while Argentina is undergoing economic turmoil.
Batakis will be responsible for managing an economy burdened with inflation running at an annual rate above 60 per cent and will play a key role in determining the future of the country’s recent deal with the International Monetary Fund to restructure US$44 billion in debt. Many left-leaning members of the governing coalition oppose the IMF agreement.
Batakis was the economy minister of Buenos Aires province, the country’s most populous district, from 2011 to 2015 under then-Gov. Daniel Scioli, who was recently named the federal production minister.
Guzmán quit unexpectedly Saturday, posting his seven-page resignation letter on Twitter, and apponting a successor before the markets opened Monday was seen as particularly important to avoid a further slide by Argentina’s peso, which recently hit an all-time low against the dollar.
The economy also has been disrupted by trucker strikes over shortage of diesel.
Guzmán was largely unknown when he became minister and was seen as a moderate in the governing coalition, which includes more left-leaning elements allied with Vice President Cristina Fernández, a former president who still has a strong base of support.
Batakis, on the other hand, has a long history of public service and is seen as close to the vice president and her allies.
The vice president, who is not related to the president, has recently taken to publicly criticizing the administration’s economic policies in high-profile speeches that have put a spotlight on the rifts within the governing coalition.
Guzmán’s resignation letter, which was released as the vice president was giving a speech in which she again criticized economic policy, suggested he stepped down at least in part due to a lack of political support.