Argentine economy chief resigns amid woes

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s economy minister unexpectedly resigned on Saturday, dealing another blow to President Alberto Ferandez’s government as the country grapples with economic problems.

Martin Guzman has quit after a week in which Argentina’s currency hit a historic low against the dollar amid soaring inflation and truck drivers staging protests over diesel fuel shortages.

Gabriela Cerruti, spokesperson for the presidency, wrote on Twitter on Sunday evening that Silvina Batakis will now lead the economy ministry, replacing Guzman.

Batakis served as economy minister for the province of Buenos Aires, the country’s most populous district, from 2011 to 2015.

“I am writing to tender my resignation as economy minister,” Guzman said in a seven-page letter to Fernandez that he posted on Twitter that highlighted internal battles within the organization. ‘administration.

Illustrating the tensions, Guzman announced his resignation as Vice President Cristina Fernandez gave a high-profile speech in which she lambasted the government’s economic policies. The vice president, who is not related to the Argentine leader, is herself a former president and the ruling coalition has split between their allies.

With the Argentine peso falling against the dollar, the government on Tuesday made it harder to acquire dollars to pay for imports as the local currency hit new lows in the parallel market used by citizens and businesses to circumvent official channels.

Argentina has suffered from a dollar shortage for years, which stems in part from Argentines’ mistrust of their own currency amid high inflation. Inflation is running at an annual rate of over 60% and economists expect the rate to continue to deteriorate.

On Wednesday, the government said it was trying to increase the availability of diesel by allowing more biofuel to be blended in fuel and suspending the import tax on diesel.

Argentina produces diesel but not in sufficient quantities for its needs and depends on imports, with world prices rising due to disruptions caused by the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Analysts say one of the reasons for the shortage is that it is unprofitable for oil companies to import diesel because the government prevents them from charging what it costs to buy on the international market. .

In his resignation letter, Guzman suggested that at least part of his reason for leaving was because he lacked political support in government.

“Based on my experience,” he writes, “I consider that it will be fundamental to work for a political agreement within the government coalition so that the person who replaces me has centralized control of the instruments of necessary macroeconomic policies…to meet the challenges ahead.”

Guzman had held office since the start of the Fernandez government on December 10, 2019.

In his letter of resignation, Guzman said his main objective upon taking office was to “calm the economy” and that in order to do so it was necessary to “resolve the problems of the unsustainable external debt that plagues the State, as well as all of Argentina.”

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