Argentine president seeks to stamp authority on IMF debt talks

FILE PHOTO: Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez speaks during a news conference at the National Palace, in Mexico City, Mexico February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on Tuesday said he would oversee brokering a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over debt, asserting his authority after reports that his powerful vice president was seeking to delay an accord.

Argentina has spent months in talks with the IMF to restructure a loan secured by Fernandez’s predecessor, Mauricio Macri, to tackle a severe economic crisis in the country.

Speaking at a news conference during a visit to Mexico City, Fernandez said he wanted to be “very careful” in his talks with the IMF, suggesting that the 2018 loan was issued in a bid to help safeguard his rival Macri’s hold on power.

Comments by senior officials have raised concerns about Argentina’s willingness to reach terms. The Financial Times reported earlier this month that Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was seeking to push back an agreement until after the coronavirus pandemic was over.

Fernandez defended his vice-president, herself a former president, saying much of the Argentine media tried to depict her as “a disruptive and crazy person” bent on pursuing solutions that did little to benefit the country.

“That’s a problem that I and the economy minister have to resolve, and obviously Cristina has an opinion, and obviously I listen to her, but it’s my decision,” Fernandez said.

“We want to reach a deal, but it needs to be a deal that is right for Argentina and it needs to be a deal that departs from the premise (that) we are dealing with a crazy loan that the International Monetary Fund gave to a country for political purposes that didn’t make any economic sense,” he added.

Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Dan Grebler