Argentine President Mauricio Macri moved within his first few weeks in office to revive his country's crippled economy by reversing years of populist policies -- and by making a U-turn in Argentina's relations with the United States. He acted while the country's congress was in summer recess, angering political opponents. But he tells Lesley Stahl on Sunday's 60 MINUTES that he has reached out to those foes and convinced many of them to work with him on his plans for Latin America's second-largest country. His interview, on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to Argentina, will be broadcast Sunday, March 20 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Macri, who comes from a wealthy business background, says Argentina can't afford to let ideology interfere with problem solving. "I really believe [the] 21st Century demands that we have to be open, and not putting any more ideological differences in front of the best solutions."
So the new president met right away with the two candidates he defeated in the election, as well as all of the country's governors in an attempt at political reconciliation. He then employed some political skill to get a block of legislators to side with him. "I have received all of them, and say, "Well, I'm ready to work. Do you agree that we need to work towards zero poverty? We have to defeat drug trafficking. We have to improve the quality of our democracy," says Macri. "Well, let's find in which specific projects we can do it. And we...found, and we are finding, that there are ways in which we can cooperate."
President Macri shows Lesley Stahl his lighter side as well, telling her the story of how he almost died on the night of his wedding impersonating his favorite singer, Freddie Mercury, of the band Queen. Macri is famous in Argentina for dancing when he wins elections.
The pressure is on to do even more in Argentina, which has faced years of high inflation, dwindling currency reserves, and fiscal deficits, brought on by populist economic policies such as subsidizing the cost of citizens' electricity. One of the things Macri did was roll back those government subsidies, leading to price increases of up to 300 percent. He also allowed the country's exchange rate to float and abolished export taxes to encourage foreign trade.
"We have to do more. That's the pressure. We are in a very bad starting point...but I'm here running the country because I believe in my people," says Macri. "I have the luck to choose what I do in my life and I have chosen this because I believe that everybody can do much better."