MEXICO CITY — After he named two Supreme Court justices, slashed export taxes, ended a controversial agreement with Iran, called the pope to wish him a happy birthday and caused the Argentine peso to lose nearly a third of its value against the dollar, Mauricio Macri now faces this question: What's he going to do in his second week?
Macri was sworn in as Argentina's president on Dec. 10 in a ceremony that was boycotted by the outgoing leader, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and since then has launched himself on a mission to reverse many of Fernández's defining economic and political moves. His eventful first week ended with the biggest change of all, a lifting of currency controls and the biggest devaluation of the peso in years.
Macri's moves, many of them telegraphed in his campaign, are intended as part of his pro-business agenda to attract more foreign investment and improve relations with the United States, Europe and Latin America. In the process, he's reversing the direction Argentina has taken in the past 13 years under President Néstor Kirchner and then his wife, who increased the role of the state in the economy, nationalized companies and increased subsidies to the poor. They also aligned themselves more with with the anti-American left in Latin America, such as Venezuela and Cuba.
As Graciela Mochkofsky wrote in the New Yorker, Macri has stacked his cabinet with former chief executives and other corporate executives, part of his push to make Argentina more attractive to businesses.
By getting rid of currency controls — Argentina for the past four years had limits on the sale of U.S. dollars — and letting the peso float, Macri's administration hopes to revive an economy that has suffered from high inflation, government corruption and a lack of confidence in the accuracy of government statistics.
The peso on Thursday fell from what had been the official rate of about 9 pesos to the dollar to about 14 pesos per dollar, around the rate that the black market had already established for its value. The big worry in the days ahead is whether the peso will continue to fall erratically or the devaluation will accelerate inflation.
Macri has made several other big moves in his few days as president. He cut most of the taxes paid by agricultural exporters, an important part of the economy in Argentina. He named two Supreme Court justices by decree, avoiding the normal process of Senate approval, which caused protests. But then it appeared their appointments would be postponed.
Macri's administration also said it would not abide by an agreement made by Fernández to jointly investigate with Iran the country's worst terrorist attack, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Former Iranian officials have been charged in Argentine courts for participating in the attack, and Interpol in 2007 issued several arrest warrants. Many Argentines felt the agreement — which Fernández's administration argued was the only path left to find justice — ensured the truth would never come to light.
That case was at the heart of one of the main scandals of the Fernández era, the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, whose body was found in his apartment just before he was to testify on his accusations that Fernández had conspired with Iran.
On Thursday, the investigating prosecutor, Viviana Fein, was removed from the stalled case, and the judge in charge said she was personally going to lead the investigation.