Mauricio Macri was sworn in Thursday as Argentina’s president, promising to end an era of combative politics and bring Argentines together even as his predecessor and many of her supporters shunned his inauguration.
With tens of thousands of supporters waving blue-and-white flags in the streets, Mr. Macri, 56, said he would pragmatically tackle a host of thorny economic problems and protect the poorest Argentines.
After receiving a ceremonial scepter and sash at the Casa Rosada, the country’s presidential palace, Mr. Macri joined his wife, Julieta Awada, 41, in waving to supporters from a balcony. Reprising a frequent feature of his campaign, Mr. Macri danced a solo performance before meeting with foreign dignitaries.
“Our point of encounter will be the truth,” Mr. Macri said in his first speech as president. During his campaign, Mr. Macri repeatedly accused his predecessor, Cristina Kirchner, of lying about government statistics.
Missing from his inaugural was Mrs. Kirchner, whose decision to shun the event was seen as the first challenge to his administration as it ends 12 years of populist rule and tries to pursue more business-friendly economic policies.
Congressional members of Mrs. Kirchner’s Victory Front party also snubbed the ceremony. Mr. Macri will need broad legislative support to resolve a legal conflict with U.S. hedge funds that has prevented Argentina from borrowing money in global credit markets.
Mr. Macri’s opposition “Let’s Change” coalition narrowly beat Mrs. Kirchner’s ruling party candidate, Daniel Scioli, in a runoff election last month. In his inaugural address, Mr. Macri sought to reassure voters who fear he will abandon Mrs. Kirchner’s popular social welfare programs.
“We are going to take care of everyone,” he said. “The state is going to be present where it has to be for every Argentine, especially for the neediest of us.”
Huge numbers of Argentines participated in Mr. Macri’s inaugural parade, singing patriotic songs and chanting, “Yes we can.” Most spoke enthusiastically about him.
“We have a lot of faith in Macri,” said Lidia Iluminati, 60, a schoolteacher. “He did a good job as the mayor of Buenos Aires and I’m confident he will inspire foreign companies to invest in Argentina.”
But he faces an uphill battle with Kirchner supporters and the nearly 49% of Argentines who didn’t vote for him. Many of those people worry he will favor rich people and investors.
“I watched his speech and thought he looked like an aristocrat. His policies will hurt people,” said Melina Shombron, 23, a student.
Mr. Macri didn’t make any policy announcements on Thursday. His new finance minister,Alfonso Prat-Gay, told reporters that the government will “not overwhelm anyone with a package of policies.”
Mr. Prat-Gay said he would need some time in office to study government accounts before announcing new plans. “After that, we’ll be making the economic decisions we need to make,” he said.
Mr. Macri confronts Latin America’s most dysfunctional economy except Venezuela’s, with rising poverty and inflation nearing 25%. The Argentine economy contracted 3.1% in per capita terms between 2011 and 2014, the deepest drop in Latin America, according to local consultancy Orlando J. Ferreres & Asociados.
Mr. Macri has vowed to cut inflation to a single digit within two years, though advisers are trying to find way to do so without weakening the economy.
Mr. Prat-Gay previously said the government would eliminate a burdensome system of currency controls “as soon as feasible.” Mr. Macri’s advisers also said his administration will cut income taxes for lower-to-middle-income workers, seeking to boost consumer spending before a devaluation that is widely expected to accompany the elimination of currency controls.