Mauricio Macri assumed the presidency of Argentina a little over a year ago, on Dec. 10, 2015, intent on correcting years of mistakes by his predecessors and eager to cement his place as a leader of significance. While he has largely succeeded in the first goal, the second remains stubbornly out of reach, and efforts to build an enduring legacy will only grow more complicated in the years to come.
Macri’s surprising victory in the 2015 election—polls initially showed him likely to lose outright in October’s first round of voting—ended 12 years of rule by Nestor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Macri’s triumph stemmed largely from his status: As the scion of a plutocratic Buenos Aires family, he was the farthest politician possible from the discredited Kirchners, small-time lawyers-cum-politicians from remote Santa Cruz.
For the Kirchners and their Peronist party, politics was akin to warfare. In their 12 years controlling the presidency—the first four via the late Nestor, the following eight under Cristina, with both pursuing a similar socialist-leaning program—the Kirchners sought popularity through conflict with many adversaries. That ranged from political challengers, including Macri, and protesting unions to multilateral organizations, foreign countries, multinational oil companies and, most famously, New York hedge funds. They also thumbed their nose at increasingly voluminous evidence of corruption implicating them and their closest political and business allies.