- America.Argentina invokes "food sovereignty" to expropriate a large company
The "Vicentín case" has already become a soap opera that has confused many of the Argentines: if on Thursday night the possibility of "listening to superior alternatives" was opened, today Friday President Alberto Fernández insisted on the expropriation of the important agro-export company, at the same time that a government agency denounced former President Mauricio Macri before the courts . And, amid the tension, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador , appeared, revealing details of the delicate negotiation that Argentina maintains with its external creditors.
"Expropriation is the tool to rescue the company, there is no other way," the president said in an interview with journalist Cynthia García. Fernández explained why he is convinced that Vicentín, the main Argentine oilseed milling company, should be expropriated. Vicentín is in call for creditors with a debt of 1.3 billion dollars .
"What they are proposing is that the state enter the company without expropriation. What happens is that this supposes an 'agreement' with businessmen who are very scattered," said Fernández, who ruled out that route for being "very little transparent."
The head of state, a lawyer by profession, spoke with striking frankness and detail about the situation of the company and the intentions of his government just hours after receiving the owners of Vicentín: "They know that they have no air and that only the State can help them, but they want to 'agree' with the State because they fear that after an expropriation they will be weak in the face of the accusations that exist for their management. "
When Fernández talks about "splashing" and "handling", he refers to a complaint filed by the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) accusing the company of money laundering, recipient of important loans from Banco Nación during the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Macri's, which ended six months ago.
According to the Clarín newspaper , "at the beginning of the year, the federal prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita charged the former head of the Argentine National Bank, Javier González Fraga, and those responsible for the Vicentín firm, Alberto Padoan and Gustavo Nardelli, in a complaint for alleged irregularities in the granting of loans to this business group ". The newspaper also highlights that "the cereal company was the main contributor of money in Mauricio Macri's presidential campaign."
The TN news channel elaborated: "They accuse them that, simulating a default, money was transferred abroad. That is why they make a presentation for money laundering before the prosecutor. They request the general inhibition of assets for the owners of the company, González Fraga and Macri ".
The former president, with a political sign opposed to the current Peronist government, has not opened his mouth since he left power on December 10, 2019, but the "Vicentín case" especially fuels his political base, which denounces the Fernández government it is leading Argentina to a "Venezuelanization" process.
The tension for the expropriation of Vicentín occurs in a context of acceleration of the Covid-19 cases and of uncertainty over the negotiation with foreign private creditors, to whom Argentina owes $ 66 billion, which it alleges it is unable to pay. . The government was expected to announce its improved proposal today after the initial rejection by creditors, but delayed the announcement until next week.
And in the midst of that wait, Mexican President López Obrador did Fernández, who considers himself his political ally, a disservice: he revealed details of the negotiation between Argentina and creditors .
"I helped to find a way out of managing Argentina's debt with investment funds. The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, spoke to me, who knew that I had a good relationship with the funds. He already had an opinion on how much they could recognize from Argentina's debt. He told me that he wanted to comply, not to sign anything that would later be breached. That they accept their proposal, which was at that time to pay 41 percent of the debt, a deduction from 59. "
The mediation of López Obrador is understood if the focus is put on Gerardo Rodríguez, a former Mexican undersecretary of Finance who today is the head of emerging markets at Black Rock, a fund specialized in doing business with emerging markets and Argentine "black beast" throughout this negotiation. In the weeks leading up to proposals and counterproposals, the talks between Rodríguez and Argentina's economy minister, Martín Guzmán, ended "more than once by shouting," sources familiar with the negotiation said.
While Guzmán is negotiating, Avellaneda, the town where Vicentín is based, took to the streets this week to protest state intervention and expropriation, which requires a law from Parliament. And on Wednesday night loud cacerolazos were heard in different cities of the country. A day later, when the governor of Santa Fe, Omar Perotti , spoke of the government opening up to other ways than expropriation, the spirits calmed down. But everything changed again hours later with the presidential ratification of the expropriation.
In addition to being the main Argentine oilseed milling company, which is saying a lot in one of the largest soybean producers worldwide, Vicentín is also the largest producer of biodiesel in the country , something that partly explains why it is expected that the oil company YPF takes control of the company.
Kirchnerism (and Peronism in general) have a long history of expropriations, also of privatizations and re-nationalizations. This is the case of YPF and Aerolineas Argentinas, privatized by the Peronist Carlos Menem in the 1990s and nationalized by the Peronist Fernández de Kirchner, today Vice-President of Fernández, just over a decade later.
Fernández, who was exhausted, irritated and hesitant on Monday when making the announcement, reacted assuring that the decisions are his and not that of his vice president: "I say this publicly to finish fanning this black story of Cristina challenging and beating me two screams to do what I don't want to do. That doesn't exist and I wouldn't allow that to exist. "
Luis Basterra , Minister of Agriculture, but clearly outside the decisions regarding Vicentín, ratified today the expropriation in statements to radio "El Destape": "The President was very clear: today there is no other alternative than expropriation."
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