Argentina Swears in Socialist President

President of Argentina Alberto Fernandez smiles during the reception of foreign leaders at
Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images

Peronist Alberto Fernández assumed his position as president in Argentina on Tuesday, a return to power for the socialists after predecessor Mauricio Macri failed to stem an economic decline triggered by a decade of leftist rule.

Fernández was inaugurated in front of supporters in Buenos Aires’s Plaza de Mayo, who waved banners and beat drums as he took his oath of office. As is tradition, outgoing President Macri handed him the presidential baton and sash to initiate his time in office.

“I am calling for the unity of all of Argentina, in pursuit of the construction of a new social citizen contract based on both fraternity and solidarity,” Fernández said in his inaugural speech, adding that he would heal the “deep wounds” within the country’s population.

“I am asking you all to help put Argentina back on feet so that we can once again live with dignity with social justice,” he said. “We will stop traveling down the path of disagreement.”

Fernandez takes over from the country’s center-right leader Mauricio Macri, who experienced a major collapse in popularity after failing to stop the pain unleashed by the country’s worsening economic predicament. With poverty rates at 35 percent, the economy is expected to shrink by three percent by the end of 2019 while inflation is at 55 percent.

The 60-year-old former cabinet minister has pledged to restore the country’s economic standing by increasing spending and renegotiating $100 billion in sovereign debt left by his predecessor that may eventually lead to a damaging default. He has also announced plans to reduce poverty by subsidizing basic foods for lower-income families.

The incoming president has also announced plans to fight poverty with the distribution of subsidized basic foods, and outlined measures to lower food prices and fight malnutrition in poor families.

His rise to power has so far only unsettled the markets and foreign investors, with many fearing the consequences of further borrowing and spending when the country is already struggling to make its debt payments on time.

The new leader was joined on stage by his running mate and former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who successfully managed to dodge pending criminal charges against her over allegations that she covered up the involvement of the Iranian regime in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in exchange for favorable trade deals. The AMIA bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the Western Hemisphere before September 11, 2001.

In a clear indication of the shifting political landscape, Miguel Díaz-Canel – Cuba’s “president” and second-in-command to dictator Raúl Castro – was one of the various left-wing leaders invited to attend the ceremony, including the recently removed Evo Morales of Bolivia and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, recently released from jail despite being convicted on corruption charges. Fernández is also a supporter of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, meaning Macri’s term ending is a loss for Venezuela’s President Juan Guaidó.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, known for his hard-line conservative and anti-communist views, decided not to attend the ceremony over stark differences in ideology and disagreements over his country’s future in the Mercosur trade bloc.

Center-right Chilean President Sebastián Piñera also did not attend, but canceled his plans last-minute after a Chilean military aircraft disappeared early Tuesday on its way to Antarctica.

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