Alberto Fernández

Alberto Ángel Fernández (Spanish pronunciation: [alˈβeɾto ferˈnandes]; born 2 April 1959) is an Argentine politician and professor, serving as the President of Argentina since 2019.[2][3]


Alberto Fernández
Alberto Fernandez 2020.jpg
Fernández in 2020
President of Argentina
Assumed office
10 December 2019
Vice PresidentCristina Fernández de Kirchner
Preceded byMauricio Macri
Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers
In office
25 May 2003 – 23 July 2008
PresidentNéstor Kirchner
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Preceded byAlfredo Atanasof
Succeeded bySergio Massa
Member of the Buenos Aires City Legislature
In office
7 August 2000 – 25 May 2003
Superintendent of Insurance
In office
1 August 1989 – 8 December 1995
PresidentCarlos Menem
Preceded byDiego Peluffo
Succeeded byClaudio Moroni
Personal details
Born
Alberto Ángel Fernández

(1959-04-02) 2 April 1959 (age 62)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Political partyJusticialist Party (1983–present)
Other political
affiliations
UNIR Constitutional Nationalist Party (1982–1983)
Spouse(s)
Marcela Luchetti
(m. 1993; div. 2005)
Domestic partnerFabiola Yáñez (2014–present)[1]
Children1
ResidenceQuinta presidencial de Olivos
Alma materUniversity of Buenos Aires
Signature

Born in Buenos Aires, Fernández attended the University of Buenos Aires where he earned his law degree at the age of 24, and later became a professor of criminal law. He entered public service as an adviser to Deliberative Council of Buenos Aires and the Argentine Chamber of Deputies. In 2003, he was appointed Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, serving during the entirety of the presidency of Néstor Kirchner, and the early months of the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

A member of the center-left peronist Justicialist Party, Fernández was the party's candidate for 2019 presidential election, defeating incumbent president Mauricio Macri, with 48% of the votes. During his administration, Fernández introduced a bill proposing the legalization of abortion, alongside another bill oriented towards women's healthcare, which passed by the Senate, legalizing abortion in Argentina.[4][5][6] He reached an agreement with Argentina's biggest creditors on terms for a restructuring of $65bn in foreign bonds, after an eminent collapse due to the country's debt default.[7]

In foreign policy, during early months of his presidency, Fernández saw an Argentina's relationship straining with Brazil due to political rhetoric rivalry with Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro.[8] He questioned the conclusions of the Organization of American States that the reelection of Evo Morales was unconstitutional for electoral fraud.[9]

Early life and careerEdit

Fernández was born in Buenos Aires, son of Celia Pérez and her first husband. Separated from the latter, Celia (sister of the personal photographer of Juan Domingo Perón) married Judge Carlos Pelagio Galíndez (son of a Senator of the Radical Civic Union).[10] Alberto Fernández, who barely knew his biological father, considers Pelagio to be his father.[10][11]

Alberto Fernández attended Law School at the University of Buenos Aires. He graduated at the age of 24, and later became a professor of criminal law. He entered public service as an adviser to Deliberative Council of Buenos Aires and the Argentine Chamber of Deputies. He became Deputy Director of Legal Affairs of the Economy Ministry, and in this capacity served as chief Argentine negotiator at the GATT Uruguay Round. Nominated by newly elected President Carlos Menem to serve as Superintendent of Insurance, Fernández served as President of the Latin American Insurance Managers' Association from 1989 to 1992, and co-founded the Insurance Managers International Association. He also served as adviser to Mercosur and ALADI on insurance law, and was involved in insurance and health services companies in the private sector. Fernández was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young People of Argentina in 1992, and was awarded the Millennium Award as one of the nation's Businessmen of the Century, among other recognitions.[12] During this time he became politically close to former Buenos Aires Province Governor Eduardo Duhalde.[13]

 
Fernández (right) with President Néstor Kirchner and Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana in 2007.

He was elected on 7 June 2000, to the Buenos Aires City Legislature on the conservative Action for the Republic ticket led by former Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo.

Chief of the Cabinet (2003–2008)Edit

 
Fernández (right) took oath as the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers under President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on 10 December 2007

He gave up his seat when he was appointed Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers by President Néstor Kirchner upon taking office on 25 May 2003, and retained the same post under Kirchner's wife and successor, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, upon her election in 2007.[14][15]

A new system of variable taxes on agricultural exports led to the 2008 Argentine government conflict with the agricultural sector, during which Fernández acted as the government's chief negotiator. The negotiations failed, however, and following Vice President Julio Cobos' surprise, tie-breaking vote against the bill in the Senate, Fernández resigned on 23 July 2008.[16]

Pre-presidencyEdit

He was named head of the City of Buenos Aires chapter of the Justicialist Party, but minimized his involvement in Front for Victory campaigns for Congress in 2009.[17] Fernández actively considered seeking the Justicialist Party presidential nomination ahead of the 2011 general elections.[18] He ultimately endorsed President Cristina Kirchner for re-election, however.[19] He was campaign manager of the presidential candidacy of Sergio Massa in 2015.[20]

Presidential electionsEdit

Presidential campaignEdit

On 18 May 2019, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that Fernández would be a candidate for president, and that she would run for vice president alongside him, hosting his first campaign rally with Santa Cruz Governor Alicia Kirchner, sister-in-law of the former Kirchner.[21][22]

About a month later, seeking to broaden his appeal to moderates, Fernández struck a deal with Sergio Massa to form an alliance called Frente de Todos, wherein Massa would be offered a role within a potential Fernández administration, or be given a key role within the Chamber of Deputies in exchange for dropping out of the presidential race and offering his support.[23] Fernández also earned the endorsement of the General Confederation of Labor, receiving their support in exchange for promising that he will boost the economy, and that there will be no labor reform.[24]

General electionsEdit

On 11 August 2019, Fernández won first place in the 2019 primary elections, earning 47.7% of the vote, compared to incumbent President Mauricio Macri's 31.8%.[25] Fernández thereafter held a press conference where he said he called Macri to say that he would help Macri complete his term and "bring calm to society and markets," and that his economic proposals do not run the risk of defaulting on the national debt.[26]

 
President-elect Fernández meets with outgoing President Macri following national elections that took place the previous day.

In the 27 October general election, Fernández won the presidency by attaining 48.1% of the vote to Macri's 40.4%, exceeding the threshold required to win without the need for a ballotage. [27] In Argentina, a presidential candidate can win outright by either garnering at least 45 percent of the vote, or winning 40 percent of the vote while being 10 points ahead of his or her nearest challenger. He owed his victory mainly to carrying Buenos Aires Province by over 1.6 million votes, accounting for almost all of his nationwide margin of 2.1 million votes. By comparison, Daniel Scioli only carried the country's largest province by 219,000 votes four years earlier.

PresidencyEdit

Presidential styles of
Alberto Fernández
 
Reference styleExcelentísimo Señor Presidente de la Nación (Most Excellent President of the Nation)
Spoken stylePresidente de la Nación (President of the Nation)
Alternative styleSeñor Presidente (Mister President)

InaugurationEdit

 
President Alberto Fernández (left) with his Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (right)

Fernández was sworn in on 10 December 2019.

Economic policyEdit

On 14 December, the government established by decree the emergency in occupational matters and double compensation for dismissal without just cause for six months.[28]

His first legislative initiative, the Social Solidarity and Productive Recovery Bill, was passed by Congress on 23 December.[29] The bill includes tax hikes on foreign currency purchases, agricultural exports, wealth, and car sales - as well as tax incentives for production. Amid the worst recession in nearly two decades, it provides a 180-day freeze on utility rates, bonuses for the nation's retirees and Universal Allocation per Child beneficiaries, and food cards to two million of Argentina's poorest families. It also gave the president additional powers to renegotiate debt terms – with Argentina seeking to restructure its US$100 billion debt with private bondholders and US$45 billion borrowed by Macri from the International Monetary Fund.[29]

Organizations of the agricultural sector, including Sociedad Rural Argentina, CONINAGRO, Argentine Agrarian Federation and Argentine Rural Confederations, rejected the increase in taxes on agricultural exports. Despite these conflicts, Fernández announced the three-point increase in withholding tax on soybeans on the day of the opening of the regular sessions, on 1 March and generated major problems in the relationship between the government and the agricultural sector.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37]

Argentina defaulted again on May 22, 2020 by failing to pay $500 million on its due date to its creditors. Negotiations for the restructuring of $66 billion of its debt continue.[38]

The International Monetary Fund reported that the COVID-19 crisis would plunge Argentina's GDP by 9.9 percent, after the country's economy contracted by 5.4 percent in first quarter of 2020, with unemployment rising over 10.4 percent in the first three months of the year, before the lockdown started.[39][40][41]

On August 4, Fernández reached an accord with the biggest creditors on terms for a restructuring of $65bn in foreign bonds, after a breakthrough in talks that had at times looked close to collapse since the country's ninth debt default in May.[42]

On September 22, as part of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, official reports showed a 19% year-on-year drop in the GDP for the second quarter of 2020, the biggest drop in the country's history.[43][44] Investment went down 38% from the previous year.[43][44]

Social policyEdit

On 31 December, Fernández announced that he will send a bill in 2020 to discuss the legalization of abortion, ratified his support for its approval, and expressed his wish for "sensible debate”.[4] However, in June 2020 he stated that he was "attending to more urgent matters" (referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the debt restructuring), and that "he'll send the bill at some point".[45] In November 2020 Fernández's legal secretary, Vilma Ibarra, confirmed that the government would be sending a new bill for the legalization of abortion to the National Congress that month.[46] The Executive sent the bill, alongside another bill oriented towards women's healthcare (the "1000 Days Plan"), on 17 November 2020.[5] The bill was passed by the Senate, legalizing abortion in Argentina, on 30 December 2020.[6]

On 1 March, he also announced a restructuring of the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI), including the publications of its accounts - which had been made secret by Macri in a 2016 decree.[47][48] The AFI had been criticized for targeting public figures for political purposes.[47]

On August 17, protests took place in many cities across Argentina against measures taken by Fernández, primarily the Justice Reform Bill his government had sent to the Congress, but also, among other causes: for the "defense of institutions" and "separation of powers", against the government's quarantine measures, the perceived lack of liberty and the increase in crime, and a raise on state pensions.[49][50]

On 4 September 2020, Fernández signed a Necessity and Urgency Decree (Decreto 721/2020) establishing a 1% employment quota for trans and travesti people in the national public sector. The measure had been previously debated in the Chamber of Deputies as various prospective bills.[51] The decree mandates that at any given point, at least 1% of all public sector workers in the national government must be transgender, as understood in the 2012 Gender Identity Law.[52]

On 12 November 2020 Fernández signed a decree legalizing the self-cultivation and regulating the sales and subsidized access of medical cannabis, expanding upon a 2017 bill that legalized the use and research of the plant and its derivatives.[53] In June 2019, during his presidential campaign, he had signalled his intention to legalize marihuana for recreational purposes but not other types of drugs.[54]

Foreign relationsEdit

 
Meeting with Pope Francis on 31 January 2020.

During his administration, Argentina's relationship with Brazil has become somewhat strained.[8] Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro refused to attend Fernández's inauguration, accusing him of wanting to create a "great Bolivarian homeland" on the border and of preparing to provoke a flight of capital and companies into Brazil.[55] Fernández and Bolsonaro had their first conversation through a video conference on 30 November 2020, during which both presidents agreed on the importance of cooperation and the role of Mercosur.[56]

Donald Trump's top adviser for the Western Hemisphere, Mauricio Claver-Carone, crossed Fernández in 2019 saying: "We want to know if Alberto Fernández will be a defender of democracy or an apologist for dictatorships and leaders in the region, whether it be Maduro, Correa or Morales."[57]

Under Fernández, Argentina has retired in the Lima Group formed by North and South American nations to address the crisis in Venezuela, after not subscribing to any of the Group's statements and resolutions.[58] Argentina voted in favor of the United Nations resolution to back the continuity of the UN Human Rights Office report on human rights violations in Venezuela.[59] Under Fernández, Argentina withdrew recognition of Juan Guaidó as interim President of Venezuela.[60] In January 2020, the Fernández administration revoked Elisa Trotta Gamus credentials, who was Guaidó's envoy to Argentina and whose representation had been approved by the Macri administration.[61] However, Fernández also refused to recognize Maduro's envoy Stella Lugo's credentials and Foreign Minister Felipe Solá asked her to return to Caracas.[62][63]

Alberto Fernández questioned the conclusions the Organization of American States that the reelection of Evo Morales was unconstitutional for electoral fraud. Fernández's government recognized Morales as the legitimate President of Bolivia, and granted him asylum in Argentina in December 2019.[9][64] On 9 November 2020, with the Luis Arce's victory in 2020, Fernández personally accompanied Morales to the Argentine border with Bolivia, wherein the two leaders held a public act celebrating Morales's return to his home country.[65]

In January 2020, Fernández traveled to Israel for his first presidential trip abroad. There he paid respects to the victims of the Holocaust and maintained a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who thanked him for keeping Hezbollah branded as a terrorist organization, a measure taken by former President Mauricio Macri.[66][67]

Regarding Argentina's strained relations with Iran, Fernández publicly defended the Memorandum of understanding between Argentina and Iran,[68] although critical of this prior to taking office.[69] In September 2020, Fernández asked Iran before the UN General Assembly to "cooperate with the Argentine justice" to bring justice to the cause and extradite those Iranian officials who stand accused of the attack. He further stated that if the officials were to be found innocent, "they could freely return to Iran or otherwise face the consequences for their actions."[68][70]

Position during COVID-19 pandemicEdit

 
The announcement of the lockdown by Fernández was generally well received, although there were concerns with its economic impact.[71]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fernandez's government announced a country-wide lockdown, in effect from 20 March until 31 March, later extended until 12 April.[72][73] The lockdown was further renewed on April 27, May 11, May 25, June 8, July 1, July 18, August 3, August 17, August 31 and September 21, and included several measures including travel, transport and citizen movement restrictions, stay-at-home orders, store closures and reduced operating hours.[74]

Responses to the outbreak have included restrictions on commerce and movement, closure of borders, and the closure of schools and educational institutions.[75] The announcement of the lockdown was generally well received, although there were concerns with its economic impact in the already delicate state of Argentina's economy, with analysts predicting at least 3% GDP decrease in 2020.[76][77] Fernandez later announced a 700 billion pesos (US$11.1 billion) stimulus package, worth 2% of the country's GDP.[78][79][76] After announced a mandatory quarantine to every person that returned to Argentina from highly affected countries,[80][81] the government closed its borders, ports, and suspended flights.[75][82]

On 23 March, Fernández asked the Chinese president Xi Jinping for 1,500 ventilators as Argentina had only 8,890 available.[83][84]

Included in the package was the announcement of a one-time emergency payment of 10,000 pesos (US$152, as of March 20) to lower-income individuals whose income was affected by the lockdown, including retirees.[85] Because banks were excluded in the list of businesses that were considered essential in Fernandez's lockdown decree, they remained closed until the Central Bank announced banks would open during a weekend starting on 3 April.[86]

Due to Argentina's notoriously low level of banking penetration, many Argentines, particularly retirees, do not possess bank accounts and are used to withdraw funds and pensions in cash.[87] The decision to open banks for only three days on a reduced-hours basis sparked widespread outrage as hundreds of thousands of retirees (coronavirus' highest risk group) flocked to bank branches in order to withdraw their monthly pension and emergency payment.[88][89][90][91]

Due to the national lockdown, the economical activity suffered a collapse of nearly 10% in March 2020 according to a consultant firm. The highest drop was of the construction sector (32%) versus March 2019. Every economical sector suffered a collapse, with finance, commerce, manufacturing industry and mining being the most affected. The agriculture sector was the least affected, but overall the economic activity for the first trimester of 2020 accumulates a 5% contraction. It is expected that the extension of the lockdown beyond April would increase the collapse of the Argentinian economy.[92] On March, the primary fiscal deficit jumped to US$1,394 million, an 857% increase year-to-year. This was due to the public spending to combat the pandemic and the drop in tax collection due to low activity in a context of social isolation.[93]

Despite the government's hard lockdown policy, Fernández has been criticized hard[94] for not following the appropriate protocols himself. This included traveling throughout the country, taking pictures with large groups of supporters without properly wearing a mask nor respecting social distancing,[95] and holding social gatherings with union leaders.[96]

 
Fernández receiving the first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 on 21 January 2021.

On September 3, despite most local governments still enforcing strict lockdown measures, Fernández stated that "there is no lockdown",[97] and that such thoughts had "been instilled by the opposition", as part of a political agenda.[98] Fernández eased some lockdown measures in the Greater Buenos Aires on November 6, 2020, shifting to a "social distancing" phase.[99][100]

On 21 January 2021, Fernández became the first Latin American leader to be inoculated against the disease via the recently approved Gam-COVID-Vac (better known as Sputnik V).[101][102]

Ginés González García was forced to resign as Health Minister on 19 February 2021[103] after it was revealed he provided preferential treatment for the COVID-19 vaccine to his close friends, including journalist Horacio Verbitsky and other political figures. He was succeeded by the second in charge Carla Vizzotti. The revelation was met with wide national condemnation from supporters and opposition, as Argentina had at the time received only 1,5 million [104] doses of vaccine for its population of 40 million.[105]

Fernández tested positive for the COVID-19 on 2 April 2021 having a "light fever".[106]

Justicialist Party chairmanshipEdit

On 22 March 2021, Fernández was elected by the national congress of the Justicialist Party as the party's new national chairman, succeeding José Luis Gioja.[107] Fernández ran unopposed, heading the Unidad y Federalismo list, which received the support of diverse sectors in the Peronist movement, including La Cámpora.[108]

ControversiesEdit

Fernández has engaged in disputes with users on Twitter before his presidency, in which his reactions have been regarded as aggressive or violent by some.[109][110][111]

Tweets show him responding to other users with expletives such as "pelotudo" (Argentinian slang for "asshole"),[112][113] "pajero" ("wanker"),[114][110] and "hijo de puta" ("son of a bitch"),[115][116] He also called presidential candidate José Luis Espert "Pajert", a word play between his last name and the Argentine slang for "wanker".[113]

In December 2017, he responded to a female Twitter user by saying "Girl, what you think doesn't worry me. You better learn how to cook. Maybe then you can do something right. Thinking is not your strong suit".[117][118]

In June 2020 he told journalist Cristina Pérez to "go read the Constitution" after being questioned about his attempts to install a government-designated administration in the Vicentín agricultural conglomerate.[119]

In a 2017 interview for the Netflix mini-series Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President, and the Spy, (see Death of Alberto Nisman) Fernández stated that "To this day, I doubt that he (Nisman) committed suicide";[120] however after he became president in 2020, Fernández reportedly said, "I am convinced that it was a suicide, after doubting it a lot, I am not going to lie."[121]

On June 9, 2021, Alberto Fernández made a racist joke at a press conference alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at the Casa Rosada. “Mexicans came out of the Indians, Brazilians came out of the jungle, but we Argentines arrived in boats. And they were boats that came from Europe,” Fernández told Sánchez, in an attempt to describe the Argentines as “Europeans from Latin America”. Fernandez also erroneously attributed the quote to the Mexican poet, essayist and diplomat Octavio Paz (1914-1998), when it was about lyrics by Argentine rocker Litto Nebbia.[122] Faced with the negative repercussion of his racist speech, Alberto Fernández went to social media on the same day to apologize.[123]

Personal lifeEdit

Fernández married a fellow University of Buenos Aires law student, Marcela Luchetti, in 1993.[124] They separated in 2005.[125] Fernández and Luchetti have a single child, Estanislao (born 1994), known in Argentina for being a drag performer and cosplayer who goes by the stage name Dyhzy.[126][127]

Fernández is a supporter of Argentinos Juniors' football team.[128]

Since 2014, Fernández has been in a relationship with journalist and stage actress Fabiola Yáñez, who has fulfilled the role of First Lady of Argentina since Fernández's presidency began.[1] The couple own three dogs: Dylan[129] (named after Bob Dylan, whom Fernández has praised and cited as an inspiration[130]) and two of Dylan's puppies, Prócer[131] and Kaila.[132]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Diego Peluffo
Superintendent of Insurance
1989–1995
Succeeded by
Claudio Moroni
Preceded by
Alfredo Atanasof
Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers of Argentina
2003–2008
Succeeded by
Sergio Massa
Preceded by
Mauricio Macri
President of Argentina
2019–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
José Luis Gioja
President of the Justicialist Party
2021–present
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