The new president then launched into a speech that was both a long list of promises and a frank, if not brutal, assessment of how he saw Argentina, a country rich in natural resources that has also suffered several major economic meltdowns.
Macri said the nation of 41 million people was entering the 21st century behind in its development, and that its education system needed modernized at all levels. He said that “lying about and hiding” the state of the economy had tarnished Argentina's reputation worldwide, a clear dig at the Fernandez administration, which often put out suspect figures on inflation, poverty rates and gross domestic product.
“I will always be honest with you,” Macri told the nation. “And being honest means telling you that the challenges in front of us are enormous.”
The 56-year-old ran on promises to usher in an era of more civil discourse and roll back much of the Fernandez administration spending that many economists say has brought Argentina to the brink of another financial crisis.
Throughout his campaign, Macri argued that measured free-market reforms would overhaul the struggling economy. He also promised to be a leader “who listens more and talks less,” a clear contrast with Fernandez, who frequently blasted opponents during hours-long speeches.
In his Thursday address, Macri promised to fight the nation's growing drug trade “as no president has before.” He also said he would make good on his aim to achieve “zero poverty” in the country and be ruthless in cracking down on corruption.
Fernandez, and before her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, dominated Argentina's political landscape for the last 12 years. The power couple sharply increased spending on social welfare programs while raising tariffs in attempts to protect local industries and aligning the country with leftist leaders like late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Macri has promised to undo many of those policies and improve relations with the United States.
“Finally, the day of change has come,” said Nelly Lopez, a 58-year-old waving Argentine and Venezuelan flags outside of Congress. “This (economic) model is ending, just like it is in Venezuela.”