In a defiant speech before the Legislative that launched the campaign for the October midterm elections, Argentine president Alberto Fernandez on Monday opened the 139th Congressional period of ordinary sessions with a barrage of attacks on the opposition, Judiciary, media and the concentrated economic powers.
Fernandez anticipated that he did not want to rush into a new deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), amid broader concerns that a previously set May date to reach an agreement will be missed.
Fernandez, addressing the country’s Congress, said that Argentina would also launch judicial action to investigate the former administration’s agreement with the Fund, which he has previously criticized for exacerbating debt levels.
“We will continue our negotiations with full focus and with the firmness we have always shown, we do not want to rush,” Fernandez said, adding that the government’s focus was to revive economic growth hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our government’s only hurry is to put production and work back on its feet in order to improve the situation of millions of Argentine families that have been plunged into the pit of poverty,” he said.
The Fernandez administration is negotiating a new IMF program to help cover its upcoming obligations to the Fund. It had initially pushed for a quick deal to replace the 2018 program, but recently signaled its willingness to wait until later in the year, concerning investors who see an agreement as key to restoring economic stability.
Fernandez’s Peronist government faces mid-term elections in October and is keen to avoid imposing austerity measures that would hit voters. It anticipated that government spending for the needy will continue and public utilities rates will be frozen.
The central bank said in a statement on Monday that it had requested an audit into any potential damages from the 2018 deal with the IMF agreed by then-President Mauricio Macri, which has seen over US$ 44 billion disbursed to the country.
Government officials sought to downplay any tension with the IMF, which counts Argentina as its largest sovereign borrower.
“That we investigate responsibility of the indebtedness with the IMF does not imply that we cannot continue talking constructively with them,” development minister Matías Kulfas told local radio on Monday.
”The president unfortunately did not speak to the Argentine Nation, but rather to the Patria Institute (which is the Kirchnerism think-tank)”, said Mario Negri, head of the inter block of opposition groups in the Lower House.
Argentina restructured almost US$ 110 billion in foreign currency debt with private creditors late last year, which helped cure the country’s ninth sovereign default.