Axel Kicillof, a scholar with rockabilly-style sideburns and an
aversion to business suits, is emerging as the face of policy shifts
that are sending tremors through financial markets around the
As Argentina absorbs the shock from a sharp plunge in its
currency, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's mercurial young
economy minister, Axel Kicillof, a scholar with rockabilly-style
sideburns and an aversion to business suits, is emerging as the face
of policy shifts that are sending tremors through financial markets
around the developing world.
Mr. Kicillof, 42, is wielding greater influence over an array of
areas, including Argentina's oil industry and the government's
attempts to slow capital flight and improve relations with
international creditors, as Mrs. Kirchner remains largely absent
from the public eye after undergoing surgery in October to drain a
blood clot near her brain.
The rise of Mr. Kicillof, whose writings use Marxist concepts to
interpret the work of the British economist John Maynard Keynes,
points to efforts by the authorities to assert greater state control
over Argentina's economy at a time when growth is slowing
significantly and inflation is soaring.
"He's the strongest economy minister Argentina has had in a
decade," said Ezequiel Burgos, the author of "The Believer," a book
about Mr. Kicillof. "He's confrontational, outwardly self-confident
and sometimes perceived as being arrogant, which of course makes him
stand out at a time like this."
Before advising Mrs. Kirchner on economic matters, Mr. Kicillof
taught economics at the University of Buenos Aires. He rose to
prominence as a deputy minister in 2012 when he directed the
nationalization of YPF, the Argentine oil company then controlled by
Repsol, the Spanish energy giant.
He has repeatedly justified the seizure of YPF, which Repsol had
acquired in 1999, in pointed critiques of Argentina's economic
policies in the 1990s of fixing the currency to the dollar and
selling state assets. In November, while reviewing Argentina's offer
to compensate Repsol for its stake in YPF, he contended that the
authorities had previously laid the foundations "for the pillaging
of our companies."
Since Mrs. Kirchner named him economy minister in November, Mr.
Kicillof has been thrust into the spotlight.
Paparazzi trail him around his middle-class neighborhood, Parque
Chas, and a celebrity magazine has described his relatively modest
lifestyle -- reflected in the car he drives, a compact 2008 Renault,
and his decision to forgo bodyguards on a vacation with his wife, a
literature professor, and their two small children.
One columnist for the magazine Noticias went as far as to examine
the psychology of Mr. Kicillof's sideburns, questioning whether they
fit within a rock 'n' roll tradition of chafing at authority or
within the fashions of 19th century Argentine political leaders who
sought to display virility and power.
Mr. Kicillof has shown a flair for clashing with critics. In an
interview published on Sunday by the pro-government newspaper Pagina
12, he warned against what he called "disinformation" campaigns on
social media networks that could destabilize Argentina's financial