LATIN AMERICA

Argentina’s “statistics manipulator” resigns from the Cabinet

Moreno was admonished by the IMF for fudging official economic data

Francisco Peregil
Buenos Aires -
Guillermo Moreno, seen in May 2012.
Guillermo Moreno, seen in May 2012.AFP (Y. CHIBA)

Just one day after the Argentinean leader announced a major reshuffle of her Cabinet, a once-powerful member of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s ministerial team handed in his resignation on Tuesday.

Guillermo Moreno, the secretary of state for trade, was the official who set the government’s economic agenda and manipulated figures relating to its performance at the National Institute of Statistics and Census (Indec). His actions compelled the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to denounce Argentina’s false reporting of its economic data.

After he began fudging the official statistics in 2007, dozens of independent consultants released studies that showed Moreno’s calculations were wrong. Earlier this year, a judge charged him with alleged abuse of authority.

Through his measures, Moreno tried to the get the word “inflation” abolished from all official documents.

In February, he introduced price freezes at all supermarkets across the country to stop consumer price-hikes. And he did it his own way by calling together all supermarket executives and telling them they had no other choice but to accept his policies.

But this didn’t stop the problem of inflation, which officially stood at 10.3 percent at the end of October, even though some private consultants believe it is above 20 percent. Moreno instead extended the price freeze for two additional months.

When prices continued to rise, the secretary of state ordered supermarket chains to stop advertising in media outlets that are critical of the government, such as Clarín, La Nación and Perfil, which all lost about 20 percent of their advertising revenues.

While the dailies decried the fact that Moreno was putting the squeeze on supermarket executives, not one private businessman came forward to acknowledge this situation.

Moreno had enemies in all sectors: from private businessmen to media owners. There were also some inside the Fernández de Kirchner’s administration who did not see eye-to-eye with him.

Nevertheless, he had the support of Fernández de Kirchner and, before that, of her husband, the late former President Néstor Kirchner. After he presented her with his resignation letter, Fernández de Kirchner appointed him as Argentina’s new ambassador to Rome.

“Handing out prizes to useless people and fascists is what our diplomatic missions around the world are all about,” said opposition Deputy Elisa Carrió.

Fernández de Kirchner also appointed her outgoing Economic Minister Hermán Lorenzino as ambassador to the European Union. Lorenzino was replaced on Monday by Axel Kicillof, the former secretary of state of the economy, who was instrumental in last year’s expropriation of YPF from the Spanish oil giant Repsol.

Moreno will step down on December 2 when the 42-year-old Kicillof takes over as minister.

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