The prominence of the name Macri in Argentina comes widely before the fact that a 56-year-old civil engineer by that name has won the presidential elections. Franco Macri, Mauricio Macri's father, is a tycoon presently focused on doing business with China, who in the past explored the construction and the automaker fields, among other. And the elected President, who began his public path as one of the heads of the family companies, made his own reputation during his tenure as president of the soccer team Club Atlético Boca Juniors.
Franco Macri wanted his eldest son to inherit the command of his empire, that for long was called Sociedad Macri (socma).
However, Mauricio Macri, wanted to choose his own way.
"He knows that if he wants a future that is different of that assigned to him, he has to transcend the Family. And in order to do so, he needs to be President", says Gabriela Cerruti in El Pibe (The Kid), the unofficial biography of Macri written by this municipal legislator, writer and journalist.
As a member of the Argentine jet set, and a man of an imposing personality, Franco was a favorite of the press because of his relationships with beautiful women and, many times, of his contentious bond with Mauricio.
"Did you ever go to family therapy?," Cerruti asked Macri.
"Yes, of course... Many years..."
"With your siblings and your father?"
"No... just the sibilings... Dad was precisely our problem!"
Macri is the eldest of five: Sandra (who recently passed away), Gianfranco, Mariano and Florencia are the rest of Franco's children. He has four children —Agustina, Jimena, Francisco and the 3-year-old Antonia— and has been married three times. His present wife, the textile entrepreneur Juliana Awada, will be Argentina's First Lady.
Having been president of the most popular soccer team in the country —of international projection as well— has served as a key experience for the future President of Argentina.
Boca won 17 titles under his leadership —he was elected in 1995, and reelected in 1999 and 2003—; Macri, on his part, broke free from the family expectations. Nevertheless, that history of business —frequently dealing with public tender— stands out among the reproach of his critics: the Macri Family obtained succulent revenues during a dictatorship that committed torture and murder.
In spite of his rows with the most important celebrity of the team, Diego Maradona ("I have never had a good rapport with Macri," the top scorer said), and the financial strains Boca went through, the candidate that the Argentine people chose became popular during his periods as president of the team. From that position, he moved forward to become a politician.
He said he made the decision to do so during the darkest days of his life: two weeks in 1991, when he was kidnapped. The payment of an allegedly 8 million-dollar ransom allowed his freeing.
The business owner Nicolás Caputo —a close friend of Macri since their elementary school days at Cardenal Newman— drove to a distant location to leave the money where the kidnappers had requested. Caputo, along with José Torello, another student at the same exclusive school, just one year older, are the only people Macri turns to when he feels he needs advice. Torello structured the think tank Crecer y Creer, that served as the foundation for Macri's political organizations.
His critics depict him as a right-wing politician, a typical example of the bourgeoisie, a rich alumnus of a private college (Universidad Católica Argentina), and a free-market advocate ready to slash social programs and public expenditure, force fiscal austerity and surrender to whatever the international creditors demand. In short: a politician who would take the country back to the conditions that caused the meltdown of 2001.
But Mauricio Macri, the first candidate that does not come from any of the two parties that have ruled Argentina for more than a century, has eluded those definitions that portray him as a conservative figure.
Simplistic views cannot explain the phenomenon of his party, Propuesta Republicana, known as PRO. It is a complex movement that grew out of the crisis of 2001, a hub for politicians from the traditional parties —peronism and radicalism—, from the democratic conservatism (as opposed to the most common form of the right wing in Argentina: the authoritarian kind), from the think tanks and from the diverse landscape of the NGOs and the voluntary service.
People that had been disappointed by a leadership that had pushed the country on the verge of collapse. People worried by the message that the Argentine people shouted in the streets to those officials: "Out with them all." Ordinary people that "got into politics," as Macri insisted in conveying. People he managed to join together, articulate in teams that in sometimes informal arguments learnt to get to agreements, with a pragmatism that allowed PRO to assume first the government of Buenos Aires City (Macri has been mayor for two terms), and then to the Premiership.
"PRO gives shelter to old and new politicians, experts of foundations and grass-root activists, entrepreneurs and voluntary servers," wrote Gabriel Vommaro, Sergio Morresi and Alejandro Bellotti in Mundo PRO (Planet PRO), a book that explores the making of this multiform organization that has just defeated kirchnerism, the fraction that has controlled the peronist movemente since 2003. "It is a party of a time critical of parties, that presents itself as the tool of those who get into politics, even if half its cadres comes from politicized families, and have a past of activism."
The authors have described the style of PRO as something very much typical of Argentina, even if it does not look like that: a mixed political force united by a strong leader.
Macri's first electoral coalition failed, and he lost the government of Buenos Aires City in 2003, but got it in 2007 as leader of a consolidated PRO. He was reelected in 2011, and his party will retain the city for the next four years: Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Macri's former chief of staff, was the porteños' choice.
This party, with its distinctive yellow flags, became strong in the capital of Argentina; but in order to succeed in the provinces other approaches were needed. PRO established coalitions with conservative regional groups and with the Unión Cívica Radical, a centrist movement, populist in its origins and now bearing social-democrat features. Also celebrities like the actor Miguel Del Sel o the former soccer player Carlos Mac Allister were invited to participate in politics for the first time. Those steps allowed PRO to become the core of Cambiemos, the political force that will evict the Frente para la Victoria (FPV, the kirchnerism formal name) from the Casa Rosada, as the presidential palace is called.
Even though Macri praised some measures of the present government during the presidential debate on November 15th —another historical event, that happens for the first time in Argentina just like the ballottage—, in particular the social network and the public administration of retirement funds, his ideological roots can be found in the study of neoliberal authors. Macri's stances are opposed to those of Cristina Kirchner.
For instance: regional alliances. It is unlikely that Macri will continue the support that Argentina has offered to Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba. He has already said that Venezuela should no longer be part of Mercosur —a proposal that would cause brushes with Brazil—, demanded the freedom of Leopoldo López, and stated that he stands for the development, and not the socialism, of the 21st century.
Macri promised to get back foreign investment, something that will need the adjustment of the exchange rate (now there is a gap of almost 70% between the official and the free dollar, which is banned) and reign in the inflation that has eroded much of the economic benefits won since the kirchnerism took office in 2003, after the crisis that in 2001 abruptly ended Fernando de la Rúa's government. He will also have to solve the conflicts with the external creditors —the so called "vulture funds"— and recover the trustworthiness of the economic statistics, twisted in the last years so that reality could be forced to match rhetoric.
In the month between the first elections, on October 25th, and the ballottage, Macri had to confront a "fear campaign," as it was dubbed. The publicity, orchestrated by the kirchnerism, included attacks from FPV activists, some tragic and some humorous (graffiti such as "Macri = Hunger," or social media posts like "If Macri wins, Macri will be President!"), and also the formal accusation of his opponent, Daniel Scioli, about a deal between the IMF and Cambiemos.
"My fellow working man, I ask you to vote in self defense," Scioli said during the debate. "Macri's proposals are dangerous for the Argentine people. Behind this idea of change lies a big untruth. Remove the veil and there is devaluation, economic adjustment. Macri's team includes former managers of Shell, Monsanto, JP Morgan."
"Daniel, the people in Argentina are not afraid," replied the future president. "You guys are the only afraid, because you will lose your privileges."
Telesur TV channel reported that in 2009 Macri requested the help of the US against the FPV; the pro-government press pointed out that Macri triplicated the debt of the city (and wondered what would happen if that style of administration would reach national levels), and asserted that the provinces will lose much needed funds because they come from the taxes for soy exports, which Macri intends to cut.
Among the shortages of Macri's work as mayor, the kirchnerist media pointed a finger at the unfulfilled promise of the extension of the subway, the frequent vetoes to the bills approved by the city legislators, the habit of not applying all the resources available for public education and public health, the real estate development that resulted in gentrification, and the numerous public tender offers by his friend Caputo that were accepted.
Perhaps the "fear campaign" has backfired. Or perhaps the next President of Argentina has taken advantage of the lack of unity of the FPV, with its candidate chosen by President Kirchner, although reluctantly because Scioli did not represent her personal ideas and fashion. Moreover, the economic and institutional crises have caused a certain fatigue among the voters, and that played in Macri's favor. Lastly, it has been conjectured that after the death of DA Alberto Nisman —just one day before he would present his investigation about the terrorist attack of the AMIA in 1994, which included an accusation against government actions— many independent electors that supported the program of FPV have changed their minds.
All in all, in his short trajectory Macri risked to be the leader of a coalition that might have evaporated into thin air, or at least find its influence limited to Buenos Aires City, while the all-powerful peronism would continue to win the country. Instead, he rose to strengthen an alternative political association. Just like the kirchnerist movement after the meltdown of 2001, the macrist movement promotes a vision of the country completely apart from the traditional ones.
Few months ago nobody in Argentina could imagine the fact —completely normal in other countries— that a President identified with a certain ideology would put the presidential sash on someone with different political beliefs. Cristina Kirchner's inflammatory rhetoric, plus the strong grassroots' campaign of the FPV, made the defeat of Scioli simply implausible. Nevertheless, on December 10th she will pass the symbols of power onto the leader of an opposing party, Mr. Macri.