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Argentina’s Fernandez unveils new cabinet, names key economic roles

Argentina’s President-elect Alberto Fernandez announce his cabinet ahead of taking office on December 10, in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernandez unveiled his cabinet and new central bank chief on Friday evening, laying out his core team days before the centre-left leader takes office facing a stalled economy, rising debt fears and painful inflation.

Fernandez named Martin Guzman, 37, as economy minister, who will need to help steer debt restructuring negotiations with international creditors and the International Monetary Fund over around $100 billion (£78 billion) in sovereign debt.

Economist Miguel Angel Pesce was named central bank chief. A low profile economist, he has criticized the orthodox approach of the central bank under conservative President Mauricio Macri, who hands over power to Fernandez on Tuesday.

Guzman, a young academic and protégé of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, is a debt restructuring expert, though has little hands-on experience in policy making.

“He is a young man, very prepared,” Fernandez said on Friday evening introducing his cabinet. “He knows very well the debt conflicts and the macroeconomic conflicts Argentina has.”

Matias Kulfas, who previously held government and central bank positions, was named as the powerful production minister. Young political scientist Santiago Cafiero, heir to a historic Peronist family, was named cabinet chief, with former Buenos Aires governor Felipe Sola tapped as foreign minister.

Guillermo Nielsen, a key economic adviser to Fernandez throughout, will be tasked with leading state oil firm YPF, including in its important ties with multinational companies developing the country’s vast Vaca Muerta shale play.

Fernandez’s cabinet will be tasked with steering Latin America’s No. 3 economy back to a left-leaning Peronist agenda after four years of austere policies under outgoing Macri, who lost favour with voters amid a deep recession and inflation.

Vice President-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a divisive former president with huge political influence in the country, was notably not present at the event where Fernandez announced his cabinet picks.

Reporting by Marina Lammertyn; writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown

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