Alberto Fernández and Joseph Biden talked for 35 minutes about the bilateral relations between Argentina and the United States
Two days ago, Felipe Solá arrived at the Olivos farm around four in the afternoon to listen to the first political dialogue between Alberto Fernández and Joseph Biden. When he entered the corridor leading to the presidential office, the chancellor realized that he had made a mistake that could not be corrected. The diplomatic appointment was in Balcarce 50, and nobody had warned him.
At four in the afternoon, on the first floor of the Casa Rosada, Alberto Fernández was waiting in silence for communication with Biden. He was not alone: the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero, the Minister of Economy, Martin Guzman, the Secretary for Strategic Affairs, Gustavo Beliz, the Secretary General of the Presidency, Julio Vitobello, and the Secretary of the Media, Juan Pablo Biondi, they were from the party.
When the diplomatic conversation was over and tea time approached, Solá entered the presidential office. The foreign minister did not hear anything of the dialogue carried out by Alberto Fernández and Biden.
Alberto Fernández during his conversation with Joseph Biden
Solá left the Casa Rosada and accepted a report from journalists Diego Iglesias and Gisela Busaniche, who host The Best Country in the World, a Radio program with You. The note began at 17.37 on Monday, November 30.
-And what were the central axes of the conversation (between Alberto Fernández and Biden)? –Iglesias asked the chancellor.
-The president (Alberto) Fernández asked him two or three things. In general medium form, but very important for Argentina. One is the go-ahead, the help, the good faith, the good will, from the US director at the International Monetary Fund. Because we are currently not having much luck in this regard with the director who will have to change, who will have to change after January 20. The government that is leaving is not having the best attitudes, in that sense, basically. And President Biden told him that he was going to try to free, pay off, that’s the word he used, the financial problems of Latin America.
Alberto Fernández never mentioned the representative of the United States on the board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), when he spoke with Biden. The president did refer to the IMF, and to the help of Pope Francis in negotiating the foreign debt, But Solá made up the whole conversation that he told the journalists Iglesias and Busaniche.
At 7:11 p.m. on Monday, November 30, a newsletter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs landed in all the newsrooms in Argentina. The official text repeated Solá’s statements assuring that Alberto Fernández had demanded the displacement of the director of the United States at the International Monetary Fund.
And at the same time, a cable from an international agency multiplied the chancellor’s recreation of the Alberto Fernández-Biden dialogue on a global level. In Washington, where the IMF headquarters are, the news signed in Argentina caused an unexpected diplomatic uproar.
Mark Rosen is a Wall Street trader and a personal friend of Steven Mnuchin, the United States Secretary of the Treasury. Mnuchin proposed to him to be director of the United States in the IMF, and Rosen accepted without hesitation. He has never worked in civil service, but he is focused, has good character, and already knows the rules of the game in DC.
Rosen felt betrayed when he read the cable with Solá’s statements. He had never operated against the Casa Rosada and he always had good treatment with Sergio Chodos, director of the Southern Cone before the International Monetary Fund.
Chodos is a highly experienced civil servant and was not surprised when Rosen called from Washington to Buenos Aires. The US director at the IMF was calm, raised his formal protest, and Chodos pledged to execute quick damage control.
Chodos was true to his word. Supported by Guzmán, he managed to get the presidential spokesman, Juan Pablo Biondi, to communicate with the international agency and make a soft denial of the unexpected exegesis that Solá made about the reserved conversation between Alberto Fernández and Biden.
And off the agenda, to further defuse the diplomatic incident, Guzmán and Chodos held a relaxed dialogue with Rosen, who had already recovered his affable tone. The three officials talked about the negotiations between Argentina and the IMF, and in the end they agreed to a lunch outside of protocol when the pandemic allows it.
“We value your work,” Guzmán told Rosen to lessen the tension that Solá’s statements caused in the most influential offices of the IMF.
Martín Guzmán, Sergio Chodos and Mark Rosen, US Director at the IMF
Solá’s free interpretation of the talk between Alberto Fernández and Biden starts from an assumption that is wrong. A US director at the IMF needs a parliamentary approval that comes after passing a rigorous hearing in the House of Senators. And that implies that Biden, even if he wanted to, could not replace Rosen with a director more akin to the Democratic Party program.
From this perspective, Alberto Fernández, Guzmán and Chodos will have to live with Rosen for long months of 2021, when the negotiations with the IMF go through its most critical hours.
The Casa Rosada attenuated the foreseeable diplomatic escalation of the IMF board in light of Solá’s statements. But the foreign minister’s conduct may further complicate Alberto Fernández’s global agenda. It is not common for a foreign minister to invent a conversation between his president and the president-elect of the United States.
“What do you think of Solá’s statements about the IMF and the director of the United States?” They asked the president yesterday at the Casa Rosada.
–It was Solá’s mistake. We never talk about it-Alberto Fernández answered.
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