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Lavagna’s legacy in Argentina

The economy minister’s ousting signals the end of an era.

Roberto Lavagna’s dismissal as Argentina’s economy minister came as no surprise. Rumours have been circling for some time that he was on the verge of leaving. He had an uneasy relationship with the president, Néstor Kirchner, and it was always a question of when, not if, he would depart.

Friction between the two had intensified in recent weeks, especially after Lavagna made remarks that were taken as a direct criticism of one of the president’s closest confidants.

This was the trigger for Kirchner, emboldened by his party’s success in October’s legislative election, to put in place an economic team more akin to his way of thinking. Kirchner is a populist relatively close to the style of Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez; Lavagna takes a fiscally responsible leftist line.

How will history judge Lavagna? He could be uncompromising, dogmatic and inflexible. But without his resolve, Argentina might have gone down a financial path from which it could never have recovered. He fought hard for Argentina’s interests and never got the credit he deserved.

Perhaps Lavagna’s greatest success was his political longevity. When he was appointed economy minister in April 2002, he was Argentina’s fifth in two years.

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