Argentine President Mauricio Macri And Donald Trump’s History Goes Way Beyond Tower Permit Scandal

Many Argentines saw visions of Mauricio Macri in the rise of Donald Trump. As a rich boy-prince touting his lack of political establishment ties, screaming corruption at the party in power — it’s easy to see how an outsider could get that view.

After all, even Eric Trump compared Mauricio to his father while opening a hotel property in neighboring Uruguay earlier this year. Both Macri and his dad, he said, share the quality of being “successful businessmen,” reported El Destape.

It was a fascinating comparison that was seized upon by local media, especially those critical of Mauricio’s return-to-neoliberalism model. As Trump’s global popularity sunk further and further, associating him with Macri suddenly became an internationally effective way of taking a stab at his image.

Little help was needed to secure such a link. Both of the political figures’ most prominent biographies, The Art of the Deal and El Pibe, recount how their relationship began in the early 1980s when the wealthy Argentine family had plans to enter the New York City real estate market.

The relationship between Donald and Mauricio remained strong for years to come. In 1984, when Trump visited Argentina, Mauricio acted as his personal tour guide, even holding a family asado — barbecue — in his honor. It was a tradition that held strong in the following decades: Macri once commented on an Argentine TV program that he often got together with his “close friend” when he traveled to New York. Diario Registrado, a vehemently anti-government publication, even edited together highlights from the two men’s relationship.

Trump’s anti-establishment ties took on a different rhetorical flavor. While Mauricio Macri promised — and has largely delivered on — a return to the traditional neoliberal model, Trump’s purported economic policy often echoed that of ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. So much so, in fact, that the Peronista who ruled Argentina for eight years came forward after his surprise win to characterize the American president-elect’s triumph as “not a racist vote” but rather a move toward protectionist economic policies, away from the globalization that has characterized the recent era of world history.

Just like elsewhere, Trump’s win arrived as a shock to Mauricio in Argentina. After tenuously extending his support to Hillary Clinton, the final weeks before the U.S. presidential elections saw some members of Macri’s government outright condemning his candidacy. Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra called his rise “worrying.” Both later backtracked on their negative comments, reported local English paper the Argentina Independent.

This position was marked contrast to when Mauricio ran, unsuccessfully, for Mayor of the city of Buenos Aires in 2003. Trump effusively praised Macri as a “great guy” who everybody should vote for.

Despite ostensibly diverging on economic policy in their campaigns, it should come as no surprise that Mauricio was among those who received a call during the president-elect’s round of victory-dialing this week. Two things about that communication indicate it may have been something other than politics as usual.

For one, Trump’s daughter Ivanka — who is likely to head his business empire — was on the line. Secondly, several media outlets reported that the president-elect asked that a permit to construct a Trump Tower in Buenos Aires be pushed forward — a theory based on conjecture from a local TV journalist with a reputation for hyperbole. The second charge has been denied by both Macri and Trump, but Ivanka’s involvement was proudly spoken about by the Argentine president in an interview released on Monday, reported The Hill.

“In the call, I also talked with his daughter. I have known her since her infant days.”

While no official permit has been handed down, it’s worth noting that plans for the Buenos Aires Trump Tower have faced a renewed push after years of stagnation. Whether that’s related to the phone call in question or simply a strengthened faith in the Trump brand across the world is unlikely to be revealed anytime soon, if ever.

Still, Mauricio and Trump have agreed that they will bring the “best bilateral relationship ever” between the two countries, a promise that would likely face troubled waters if Macri were to confirm that the Buenos Aires Trump Tower permit was under discussion in their phone call.

Either way, Mauricio isn’t really in a position where he can just ignore Trump’s demands. A renewed relationship with the United States and Europe has been central to his government’s plan. Argentina has issued billions in dollar-denominated bonds since his rise to the presidency — meant to prop up dwindling Central Bank reserves, cover a massive budget deficit and prompt industrial development. As Trump promises regulation cuts and a more business-friendly environment than his predecessor, interest in emerging market bonds, like those of Argentina, has dwindled, reported The New York Times.

Do you think Mauricio Macri is covering the Argentina Trump Tower permit outrage for his old friend?

[Featured Image via Etienne Oliveau and Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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