Lousteau leaves Washington with eye on the City
Just over a year after becoming Argentine Ambassador to the US, Martin Lousteau has resigned — unsettling the work of the embassy in Washington and worrying his PRO rivals in the City of Buenos Aires.
UCR-backed Lousteau narrowly lost in a 2015 runoff for Buenos Aires City mayor against Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, and he has made it clear that he has political aspirations of his own. The former Economy minister to ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has repeatedly called for the creation of Let's Change (Cambiemos) in the City, but so far has been rebuffed by the PRO. Currently, the PRO governs the City on its own and has faced soft opposition from the ECO coalition (UCR, Civic Coalition, Suma+, others) that Lousteau leads.
President Mauricio Macri is expected to meet with US President Donald Trump at the end of this month, and the sudden departure has not been considered timely by the government.
The United States has played a central role in the Macri government's foreign policy approach and Lousteau has been critical to the implementation of that effort. As ambassador Lousteau was at the forefront of a process of re-launching the bilateral relationship at the tail-end of former US president Barack Obama's term and had a key role in Democrat's visit to Buenos Aires in March 2016. By the same token, he oversaw the US election period and much like the rest of the Macri government he scrambled to build bridges with the Donald Trump transition team after the November election.
Writing on Facebook this week after meeting with Macri to submit his resignation, Lousteau said that he was "convinced that we have taken a very good first step in that direction, and that my replacement will continue to lay the foundations for a process of institutional evolution." However, Lousteau made it clear that he has a "responsibility" to porteños and recalled he and Macri had "agreed that in December 2015 that I could be more useful to the country as ambassador 1 feel that now that the bilateral relationship is back on track, my contributions are more useful in Argentina than abroad." Lousteau had complimentary words for the president and his administration but did not explicitly commit to not challenging the PRO in upcoming midterm elections in October.
Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra made it clear that while the prospect of Lousteau leaving the embassy was known and that it had been expected, she was taken aback by the timing. "1 would have liked to have known before. It's evident that he took this decision because the electoral schedule is tightening, he sought to handle this through political channels and he announced it yesterday to the pres- ident, who names political ambassadors" Malcorra said. The Foreign minister, ironically in Washington while Lousteau was in Buenos Aires meeting with Macri, said that she found out about the resignation by way of the media.
Asked about the possibility that former Finance minister Alfonso Prat-Gay could replace Lousteau, Malcorra declined to confirm the speculation and said that the next ambassador to Washington would be picked after a conversation with Macri.
Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra made it clear that while the prospect of Lousteau leaving the embassy was known and that it had been expected, she was taken aback by the timing.