Alberto Fernández received a call from United States President Donald Trump Friday to congratulate him on his recent presidential election.
“Congratulations on the great victory. We watched it on television,” Trump said. “You will do a great job, and I hope to meet you soon. Your victory has been talked about all around the world.”
In the week since Fernández's election, US officials have called on Argentina to uphold the commitments laid out under the terms of Argentina's record US$57-billion credit-line with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a deal that garnered the ire of many in the Frente de Todos coalition that ushered the president-elect into power.
As the largest shareholder in the IMF, the US will be key to unlocking negotiations between the new government and the Washington-based organisation over the funding programme, which is currently on hold. While the IMF board will wait to see the details of Fernández’s economic plan, Washington does have some sway over its members, holding 16.5 percent of the board's voting power.
Peronist leader Fernández said repeatedly during his campaign that he would renegotiate the IMF programme, regularly attacking the Fund and the Mauricio Mari administration's move to seek credit on the campaign trail. He has indicated he would like to reschedule payments.
Trump addressed the IMF question during the phone call. “I’ve instructed my team at the IMF to work with you, so don’t hesitate to call me,” he said, assuring Fernández he’d delivered a directive ordering cooperation with Argentina.
For the US, Fernández’s victory represents a risk for the White House after the close alliance – both personal and transactional – between Macri and Trump.
Fears have grown in Washington that Argentina's likely shift toward embracing leftist allies in the region – potentially even toward Venezuela and Cuba – would see them lose a key ally in the country.
The call to Fernández came after a week of silence, during which Trump had refrained from reaching out despite comments from other members of his government like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"We congratulate the people of Argentina for holding successful presidential elections on October 27 and we are ready to work with Alberto Fernández as the new president of Argentina," Pompeo said in a statement issued Monday after the election. The State Department official statement followed, highlighting its focus on “regional security, prosperity and the rule of law.”
During Friday’s call, Fernández told Trump he intended to maintain a “mature and cordial” relationship, focused on the “themes we have in common during this complicated time where Argentina needs help.”
“We need to do things together,” Fernandez said.