The night before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Mauricio Macri sat down with four major international newspapers, namely The Guardian (UK), Le Monde (France), El País (Spain) and La Stampa (Italy) to chat about basically everything.
Since a lot was covered, from his overall bid to supposedly “normalize” the country to the fact that he looks up to Nelson Mandela, here are a few snippets on the main topics mentioned so you don’t have to read the whole thing and Google what they’re talking about. You’re welcome.
On Attending The Forum
“Argentina wants to have good relations with the whole world.” Isn’t he cute?
The main objective of Davos is to attract international investment, which according to Macri is a number one priority. “Argentina is returning to the world […] we will be a predictable country. Those that come to invest will know that their rights will be respected as long as they respect Argentine laws.”
This is the first time that Argentina has attended the Forum in 13 years. Check out Macri’s hectic schedule in Davos here.
On Latin America’s Shift To The Right
Macri’s presidency has been seen as part of a general shift to the right in Latin American politics as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff battles a downward spiral of popularity and corruption while the ruling Venezuelan United Socialist party suffered a staggering parliamentary defeat. But Macri said he considers ideologies and left-right distinctions as so last century:
“I don’t mind [being defined as center-right]. However, people didn’t vote for me for ideological reasons, but because they believed that we can generate better conditions for the Argentine people. To keep on categorizing things that way [left or right] is antiquated.”
On The Argentine Justice And The Nisman case
Macri was asked about the strength of the judicial system in investigating people in power, taking Nisman’s death as an example because after a year, the investigation is no closer to finding the truth.
“We are against any type of impunity […] that’s why we’ve declassified the information on the Nisman case. If there was political interference in that investigation, there isn’t anymore.”
Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, the chief investigator of the 1994 Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) bombing, was found dead last January with a single gunshot to the head hours before he was supposed to present charges against former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner regarding the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran. It is still not known if it was suicide or homicide. Macri refused to comment.
Check out this review of the progress (or lack thereof) of the Nisman Case throughout 2015.
The fact that Macri had been kidnapped by a gang of former police officers and held for ransom was brought up in order to address the issue of corruption within the police force.
“[…] I believe that the police is the by-product of what politics has done […] Corruption has installed itself in society as a whole, I don’t believe that the police is more corrupt than average.”
Corruption is, sadly, a running theme in Argentine politics and one of Macri’s campaign promises included an anti-corruption agency capable of investigating even the President.
On Firing Thousands Of State Employees
In the first months of government, over 10,000 people who worked for the state have been laid off as the Cambiemos administration seeks to weed out ñoquis, Argentine slang for those who do little to no work and still claim their salary. “We believe in [a public career based on] meritocracy, not the State as a bastion for supporters of specific political parties,” he said.
When asked if more people will be fired, Macri said that yes, as long as the government keeps finding people who aren’t qualified for the job that they’re in.
For a full low-down on what’s going on with the rapidly disappearing public workers, check out this explainer by The Bubble.
On Governing By Decree
Many have criticized the new government for using presidential decrees to govern, some accusing Macri of being authoritarian for bypassing Congress, which is currently in recess. As The Guardian puts it, Macri was “unapologetic”:
“I’m using a tool that is constitutional and legal, it cannot be authoritarian. We’re just starting, there have only been a few decrees while Congress is in recess. Come back when I’ve used over 100.”
Oh, we will. He may have only used a few emergency decrees (DNUs), but former Presidents Néstor Kirchner and Carlos S. Menem signed 238 and 159 respectively in one term (Menem’s first, in this case). So, Macri’s sass aside, he may very well use over 100 — especially considering that Cambiemos does not boast a majority in Congress, making it more difficult for him to get bills passed.
Check out this explainer on DNUs by The Bubble if you don’t get what he’s talking about.
On Milagro Sala’s Arrest
As the interview went on, there were protests going on outside for the outspoken head of the organization Tupac Amaru, Milagro Sala, to be freed from jail. She was arrested last weekend, charged for inciting public violence by setting up a protest camp, and the group itself is accused of embezzlement and clientelism.
“There are independent judges in Jujuy Province that did not consult me or the governor, they acted on pending charges against [Sala]. The fact that they want to find a political explanation for these illegalities is somewhat childish.”
Despite this dismissal, as the journalists pointed out, politics are involved in her arrest due to the close relationship between Tupac Amaru, which distributes welfare throughout Jujuy, and the previous Kirchner administration. To that, Macri simply said:
“If they [the judges] think that the law has been broken then there is no need for favoritism for the more powerful.”
Click here for a full lowdown on the Milagro Sala arrest and Tupac Amaru protest.
On His Relationship With Pope Francis
Why not visit the Pope since you’re in Europe, anyway, Macri?
“We [his family] won’t go now, but we will in the next few weeks. Further down the road. The truth is that we have a good relationship, I’ve known him for years when he was the cardinal of Buenos Aires and I was the mayor [of the City of Buenos Aires].”
This is kind of awkward territory: despite rumors of a bad relationship, it would probably be more accurate to say that there isn’t much of a relationship in the first place. Macri’s former presidential rival, Daniel Scioli, claimed Pope Francis endorsed him in his presidential run and then Francis never called Macri to congratulate him on winning the presidency.
On The Vulture Funds
“Our idea is to put an end to all past conflicts. We will negotiate with the best attitude possible,” he claimed.
You’ll need more than a good attitude, Macri: the negotiations with the holdouts that are currently litigating for full repayment for buying Argentina’s defaulted debt from back in 2001 are set to be anything but straightforward.
If you’re thinking vulture funds include carrion-eating birds cashing the country out from New York, you might want to click here.
On Bilateral Relations With The UK
“I will try to start a new type of relationship […] I want to sit down and start talking about the [Malvinas] and in the meantime find in which ways we can cooperate.”
Macri did not, however, go into specifics. The new ambassador to the UK was named in the meantime, though.