Conflict of Interests Affect Argentina’s New Minister
November 2, 2017
On 1 November, Argentina’s anti-corruption office (OA) announced that it would open an investigation into a potential conflict of interest affecting the newly appointed agroindustry minister, Luis Miguel Etchevehere.
Significance: Following the electoral victory of the ruling Cambiemos coalition in the 22 October federal mid-term legislative elections, President Mauricio Macri launched a new ambitious economic and political reform agenda, which he also coupled with some changes in the cabinet. As part of this he appointed Etchevehere, until then president of the Sociedad Rural Argentina (SRA) main agricultural business sector lobby, as his new agroindustry minister in replacement of Ricardo Buryaile. But the OA, which was already investigating potential conflict of interest allegations affecting Buryaile, has warned that Etchevehere’s close links to the SRA could also represent a serious conflict of interest.
- The accusations of a conflict of interests affecting Buryaile, a member of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR, the senior partner in Cambiemos), that were being investigated by the AO are based on complaints filed by national deputy Margarita Stolbizer of the leftist opposition Generación para un Ecuentro Nacional party. Stolbizer argued that as Buryaile’s personal and family businesses are linked to the agricultural sector (Buryaile comes from a family of cattle ranchers) he should be ineligible to lead the ministry that oversees this sector.
- The OA’s September decision to launch an investigation based on Stolbizer’s complaints was seen as one of the reasons why Macri decided to move Buryaile from the agroindustry ministry and make him his new ambassador to the European Union. Other sources claim that Macri was disappointed with Buryaile’s management of the agroindustry portfolio and wanted to speed up the delayed overhaul of federal agencies such as the national food safety and quality service (Senasa) and the national agricultural technology institute (Inta), which fall under the remit of the agroindustry ministry.
- Reportedly, Macri wanted to appoint Etchevehere as his agroindudtry minister when he assumed office in 2015. But the local think-tank Fundación Pensar, which advises Macri on electoral strategies, advised against this, warning that some political quarters would be strongly opposed to the SRA president being put in charge of overseeing the country’s agricultural sector. The concern is that as agroindustry minister Etchevehere will be more interested in defending the agribusiness sector’s interests rather the wider national interests, and it is th risk of this that the OA will now investigate.
Looking Ahead: Macri seems to finally have gotten his preferred agroindustry minister but the next question is what the OA will ultimately say about the controversial appointment.
This feature was provided to EMIA by our editorial partner LatinNews.