Argentine president-elect criticizes outgoing president

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2015 1:27 PM
Argentine president-elect criticizes outgoing president

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentine politics had the feel of a school food fight on Wednesday, with President-elect Mauricio Macri accusing outgoing President Fernandez of shenanigans ahead of his inauguration next week while a top Fernandez administration official said Macri was being "whimsical."

It was the latest of several spats between the leaders since Macri beat out Fernandez's chosen successor in the Nov. 22 presidential election.

"Instead of going out the front door, (Fernandez) is going out the back door," Macri said while presenting his future Cabinet members at a botanical garden in Buenos Aires. "Each thing that she thinks is hurting our government is hurting all Argentines."

Last week, Macri said a private meeting with Fernandez was a waste of time, accusing Fernandez of stonewalling about the state of the budget and other issues related to the transition.

In the last week, the two sides have also argued about who is to blame for increasing inflation since the election, dozens of bills that Fernandez is pushing through Congress and her decision to ramp up spending on salaries and subsidies while appointing several last-minute ambassadors.

On Wednesday, Macri criticized the president for ordering the treasury to make up a shortfall of more than $10 billion owed to a handful of provincial governments with funds from the office that runs the country's pension plans — a move that will add to the country's ballooning deficit.

Macri also talked about a growing logistics spat related to the Dec. 10 inaugural ceremony. Macri said he wanted his swearing-in to be in Congress in front of lawmakers. He would then go to the government house, called the Casa Rosada, where Macri said Fernandez could pass the presidential staff and sash.

However, Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said that the president would do the transfer in Congress.

"It doesn't make sense to change locations," said Fernandez. "It appears that somebody is being whimsical."

The constitution establishes that the swearing in of the president and vice president will happen in Congress, but does not specify where the outgoing leader will hand over the presidential gear to the next head of state.

The fights come after a bruising election that included a primary in August, a first round in October and then a runoff in November. They also come at a time of major transition in the South American nation of 41 million.

For 12 years, Fernandez and late husband and former President Nestor Kirchner dominated the political landscape. They spent heavily on social welfare programs for the poor, passed laws such as legalizing gay marriage, raised tariffs to protect local industries and greatly increased the size of government and its role in society.

Macri, a conservative who ran on free-market ideas, promised to undo many of those policies while combating corruption and myriad economic problems, like inflation near 30 percent, near-zero growth the last several years and byzantine controls on the buying of U.S. dollars that has created a booming black market.

"Cristina is going to use her power up to the last minute," said Ricardo Rouvier, director of Rouvier and Associates, a political consulting firm. "This isn't going to be a simple change of administration."

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Associated Press writer Almudena Calatrava contributed to this report.