BUENOS AIRES – Mauricio Macri on Wednesday was sworn in as Argentina’s new president in an unusual ceremony marked by the absence of his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez, and issued a call for unity among Argentines to leave confrontation behind and learn “the art of agreement.”
“Thanks for being here with us. We have to move forward together, all of us together are building this Argentina,” said Macri from one of the balconies of the Casa Rosada, the seat of government, before a huge crowd gathered in the Plaza de Mayo.
Wearing the presidential sash, holding the official baton in his hand and accompanied by his third wife, designer Juliana Awada, and the couple’s young daughter, Antonia, the scion of one of the country’s leading industrial dynasties said that his team has “a great calling to have Argentines live better.”
Alternately exultant and emotional, Macri, 56, even began dancing on the balcony while Vice President Gabriela Michetti launched into a song.
Minutes before that, inside the executive mansion, Macri had received the symbols of office, the crux of an unusual feud that had erupted with Cristina Fernandez a few days prior.
It was a controversy that ended with Fernandez’s decision not to attend the inauguration of her successor after the judiciary ruled that her mandate would end at midnight Wednesday, leaving her without the authority to decide the details of the transfer of power.
The judicial ruling led to an unprecedented situation: a provisional presidency of less than 12 hours between the end of Fernandez’s term and the beginning of Macri’s, a presidency exercised by Senate leader Federico Pinedo, who was the one who ultimately presented the baton and the sash to the new leader.
A huge crowd in the streets of the capital greeted the new president as he passed by, escorted by a mounted unit of Grenadiers, on his way to his first stop – Congress – where he swore to carry out his duties as president “with loyalty and honesty” for the next four years.
In the congressional chamber and in the viewing gallery, members of Macri’s conservative Cambiemos front, but also members of other political groupings, including the former president’s Front for Victory, were divided about his coming to Congress and their solidarity with Fernandez.
There were no boos for the new president, however, and he was interrupted several times by applause during his 25-minute address in which he did not mention any concrete measures and restricted himself to repeating his campaign promises: attaining a zero poverty rate and fighting against drug trafficking and corruption.
To attain these and other objectives, he emphasized, confrontations must be put to the side.
“I call upon everyone to learn the art of agreement ... I want to be the president of integration and cooperation among different sectors, the president of working in a united Argentina on its feet,” he said.
Almost 50 foreign delegations were in Buenos Aires on Thursday attending different events associated with Macri’s inauguration.
Among the visitors were King Emeritus Juan Carlos of Spain and Presidents Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay, Ollanta Humala of Peru and Horacio Cartes of Paraguay.