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Argentina’s president-elect Javier Milei and his new economy minister Luis Caputo. (Latinvex collage from images by LLA and Milei/X)
Thursday, November 30, 2023

Argentina: Team Milei

Who’s who in the new Milei Administration in Argentina.

BY LATINVEX STAFF

Libertarian Javier Milei is scheduled to assume Argentina’s presidency on December 10, 2023.

After four years of expansionary economic policies under outgoing president Alberto Fernandez, Argentina is now expected to go the opposite direction, with a “shock therapy” of dramatic cuts to public expenses, including privatizing state companies such as oil company YPF and airline Aerolineas Argentinas.

Milei has also pledged to formally dollarize the economy by abolishing the peso and to close the Central Bank.

While never holding an executive public role before, Milei, does have ample private sector experience. He has served as chief economist of Corporación América (one of the world’s largest airport operators by number of airports managed and owned by mogul Eduardo Eurnekian), private pension company Máxima AFJP and financial consultancy Estudio Broda and as senior economist at HSBC Argentina. He also worked as a government consultant at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Milei has recruited two former executives at Corporación América to serve as his chief of staff and interior minister.

Latinvex takes a closer look at key members of Milei’s new team that have been named so far.


LUIS CAPUTO

Economy Minister

The selection of Luis Caputo as economy minister was a big surprise. Both Milei himself and several of his close advisors had been highly critical of Caputo when he was finance minister under the administration of President Mauricio Macri (2015 to 2019) the last business-friendly government in Argentina.

Caputo – who has close ties to Wall Street and Argentina’s banking sector — will be tasked with spearheading everything from the recovery of the crisis-ridden Argentine economy to Milei’s plans for dollarization and closing the central bank.

During the Macri period, Caputo served as undersecretary of finance (2015 to 2017), minister of finance (2017 to 2018) and head of the Central Bank for three months in 2018.

Macri’s chief of staff, Marcos Peña, dubbed Caputo “the Messi of finances,” in alluding to Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi.

As undersecretary of finance he was able to reach a 2016 deal with holdouts of Argentina’s 2005 debt restructuring and facilitate the country’s return to capital markets. As finance minister he successfully issued a historic 100-year bond for Argentina that raised $2.7 billion in June 2017.

However, Caputo was also linked to the crisis that hit the peso and led Macri to get a $57 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Caputo had been criticized for boosting Argentina’s debt to such a degree that capital markets started hesitating, leading to the request for aid from the IMF. He also was criticized by the IMF and many economists for reducing international reserves and for plans to meddle in the exchange rate.

“Most of his peers, colleagues and former colleagues in the economic cabinet of Mauricio Macri’s government define him as a trader, a Wolf of Wall Street and not as a macroeconomist,” Argentine newspaper Clarin writes.

Caputo, who has worked at JP Morgan in Argentina, Deutsche Bank and AXIS, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics at the University of Buenos Aires and has been Professor of Economics and Finance at the Postgraduate Course of Universidad Catolica Argentina.

His appointment may have played a role in Milei backtracking on plans to name economist Emilio Ocampo as the head of the central bank. Caputo and Ocampo had clashed over several issues, including the autonomy of the central bank during its transition period.


NICOLAS POSSE
Presidential Chief of Staff

Nicolas Posse has been an executive at Argentina-based Corporación América since 2009. It was there he met Milei, who had served as chief economist at the company and the two have reportedly remained close friends since.

As general manager of the Sur business unit, Posse has been in charge of a total of 11 airports, including Mar del Plata, Neuquén, Bariloche, Viedma and Río Gallegos, which handle more than 3 million passengers per year.

Before joining Corporación América, he served as general director of the Río de la Plata region for the energy drink Red Bull, was marketing director of Telecom and held different roles at the food company Molinos Río de la Plata.


GUILLERMO FERRARO
Infrastructure Minister

Guillermo Ferraro is to head a “superministry” that will include energy, mining, public works, transport and communications.

In all those sectors, Milei wants to reduce the state role and boost private investment and competition.

Ferraro – who was director of infrastructure and government at KPMG Argentina for 13 years until April this year — served as Undersecretary of Industry in the administration of president Eduardo Duhalde (2002 to 2003), as well as part of the administration of the City of Buenos Aires during the administration of Mauricio Macri (2007 to 2015).


EDUARDO RODRÍGUEZ CHIRILLO
Under Secretary for Energy

Eduardo Rodríguez Chirillo is considered an expert in privatizations, a key qualification for Milei’s plans to privatize state oil company YPF. Milei plans to move the energy portfolio from the economy ministry to the Infrastructure Ministry.

Chirillo worked in the Energy Ministry during the administration of president Carlos Menem (1989 to 1999) and as an advisor to the Infrastructure Ministry in 2001 (when Fernando de la Rua was president).

Chirillo also served as legal director for Mexico and Brazil for Spanish energy company Iberdrola for seven years.

One of his tasks will be the restructuring of public service contracts and the gradual elimination of energy subsidies.

 

SERGIO ARBELECHE
Under Secretray for Mining

Lawyer Sergio Arbeleche will be the point man for the government’s mining policy. Although he lacks mining sector experience, he is well-regarded by the sector, business newspaper Ambito reports.

“In the sector they describe his work as “implacable” and assure that he compensates for the lack of [direct sector experience] with excellent dialogue with interlocutors,” the paper says. “In addition, they attribute to him a notable condition for the position: he knows the history of all the mining projects in the country.”

Arbeleche is a partner at law firm Bruchou y Funes de Rioja, where he has been co-head in charge of the Mining and Environmental Areas.

He holds an LL.M in law from the University of  Suffolk.


HORACIO MARIN
CEO of YPF

Horacio Marín is an industry veteran who has worked at Tecpetrol, the third-biggest gas producer in the country, for 35 years. Tecpetrol is a unit of a unit of the Argentinian-Italian industrial conglomerate Techint. Several media report that

Marín is a trusted advisor to Techint owner Paulo Rocca.

Marín is a chemical engineer from the University of La Plata, with a master’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Texas and a postgraduate degree from Stanford.

Milei plans to sell YPF after a transition period aimed at boosting its efficiency and valie. American Depository Shares of YPF soared as much as 43% the day after Milei was elected, the biggest intraday move since they began trading in 1993.

YPF was originally privatized in 1999, but President Cristina Kirchner expropriated it in 2012 in a move that led minority share holder Petersen to sue. In September a US judge ordered Argentina to pay $16 billion for damages and interest to entities backed by litigation funder Burford Capital, which acquired the right to pursue Petersen’s claims in 2015.

DIANA MONDINO
Foreign Minister

Diana Mondino – who was Director of the Latin America region for Standard & Poor’s, based in New York until 2005 – will now lead Argentina’s foreign policy.

She has ample experience in economic and management issues. She is Chairman of Banco Roela, a board member of Loma Negra and former board member of Pampa Energía.

She has also been a professor of finance at the CEMA University in Buenos Aires.

Mondano has an MBA from IESE, Spain, and a BA in Economics from the National University of Córdoba.


GERARDO WERTHEIN
Ambassador to US

Businessman Gerardo Werthein has been named as Argentina’s new ambassador to the United States.

He is Chairman of Caja de Seguros (the largest property and casualty insurance company in Argentina) and Vice-Chairman of Telecom Argentina.

He served as CEO of winery Finca Flichman (1984-1986) and Director of Finance at Banco Mercantil Argentino (1986-1993).

He has also been president of Argentine Olympic Committee the past 14 years.

Other key appointments include Guillermo Francos, who will head the Interior Ministry. In addition to a background in politics, Francos has worked at Corporación América, between 2007 and 2011 he was the President of Banco Provincia de Buenos Aires and most recently President Alberto Fernández appointed him Argentina’s representative to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

 


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