The honeymoon’s over: Milei hits 6 months in office amid political infighting

The milestone comes in the wake of a flurry of high-profile resignations and financial market turbulence

President Javier Milei completed his first six months in office on Monday. The milestone comes amid turbulence in the financial markets and follows a critical week for his team, which saw a seemingly endless exodus of officials.

In light of this, the government is pinning its hopes on the Senate’s debate of the Bases law on Wednesday. The Casa Rosada is racing against the clock to secure votes, which are still not guaranteed, and the government is now confronting the possibility that Senate President Victoria Villarruel may have to cast a tiebreaker vote. Officials in direct dialogue with the president claim there is no risk of this, but others are less certain.

Meanwhile, Javier Milei is holding on to one of his number one ministers: the head of Human Capital, Sandra Pettovello. The official is already facing six complaints, and despite being confirmed in her position by the cabinet, the government recognizes that it has felt the impact of the scandal over retaining stocks of food.

“Of course she’s angry,” a cabinet member said. “No-one likes to be hit with 20 lawsuits over a ridiculous issue, but she’s convinced of what she’s doing.”

However, one of the recent departures from Human Capital was none other than Fernando Szereszevsky, Pettovello’s chief advisor, and no-one can guarantee the resignations will end there.

Elsewhere, the arrival of Federico Sturzenegger in the government has not yet been formalized. Official sources told the Herald’s sister title, Ambito, that Sturzenegger, the presidential advisor, is laying down his conditions for assuming the role. To this end, a special secretariat will be created that will depend directly on the Presidency and not on the Economy, led by Luis Caputo. Thus, the former head of the Central Bank will avoid having his former cabinet colleague from the Macri administration as his boss.

The context has forced Milei to ration his trips abroad, splitting his planned visit to Europe into two, and he will endeavor to attend the June 20 and July 9 celebrations. For this second date, a double event is not ruled out, with a display in Tucumán and the return of the military parade in Buenos Aires. Governor Osvaldo Jaldo proposed his province for that date if the May Pact did not materialize. The military parade has been confirmed by Defense Minister Luis Petri. 

The personal touch

The president has employed the personal touch in recent days: he resumed leading Cabinet meetings, appeared on the balcony of Casa Rosada with his officials to greet passers-by in Plaza de Mayo, and even attended one of his spokesperson Manuel Adorni’s press conferences.

Last but not least, the economy does not seem to be favoring the forces of the sky. The Casa Rosada claims the country is going through “the point of the V,” and blames that, along with “the wear and tear of management,” for the first negative presidential image results shown by polls.

In addition to the challenging political week, bonds operated with significant declines in several trading sessions and country risk reached three-month highs. The lifting of currency controls and debt maturities stand out as the main uncertainties for the second semester.

On Sunday, Sturzenegger tried to reassure the markets through a series of social media posts. The presidential advisor made a staunch defense of the government, highlighting the achievements of the “cultural shift” and portraying the idea of austerity as something “popular.” At the same time, he repeated criticisms of Congress over the Bases law and reaffirmed the idea of privatizing services and state-owned companies. It remains to be seen if this is enough to calm the financial storm.

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