Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña yesterday became the most frequent national government minister to visit Congress, addressing lawmakers for the 15th time since becoming President Mauricio Macri’s right-hand man.
However, Peña’s visit was awash with politics as he squared off with opposition lawmaker on a range of issues including abortion and controversial reform measures like proposed changes to the Criminal Code, which the government hopes will pass the Legislature in the current sitting year.
As was to be expected, Victory Front lawmakers responding to former president-cum-Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner dominated the attacks on the Macri government represenative, placing particular emphasis on Finance Minister Luis Caputo’s personal financial activities in tax havens.
CAMAÑO TAKES AIM
However, one of the sharpest attacks came from Renewal Front lawmaker Graciela Camaño who took aim at Peña’s description of her bloc as “liars” following a presentation Tuesday of their research into a Federal Penitentiary Service proposal to release 1,400 prisons from overcrowded jails.
“You must build new jails to deal with the inflation (of the prison population)”, she charged. “You cannot blame judges; this is a problem for all three branches of power”.
Camaño questioned the legitimacy of the work done by the Federal Penitentiary Service — “which responds to the Executive branch” she noted — because it had allegedly listed “prisoners who could not be found, who were no longer in prison because they had been freed or moved to other prisons”.
Following their presentation, Peña had accused the Renewal Front of “punitive demagogy” for having focused on the list's inclusion of dictatorship-era torturers like Jorge “Tigre” Acosta and Julio “el Turco Julian” Simón. He claimed the government had not been involved in the preparation of the list and noted that the Human Rights Secretariat had opposed the release from jail of human rights violators.
Camaño fired back Wednesday, alleging Peña had come to Congress “to get a headline to put in the tomorrow’s newspapers”. She described his behaviour as a “hypocritical”.
While Peña spent most of his visit trying to focus attention on the government’s perceived successes, he could not avoid a barrage of questions about Finance Minister Luis Caputo’s personal financial activity in tax havens.
The Cabinet Chief confirmed Caputo would visit Congress to address “a committee, to speak about issues surrounding debt and its application, but also the complaints made against him”.
“He can be here next week”, Peña said. The Cabinet Chief ratified his belief in Caputo’s “integrity, honesty and transparency” and again insisted that “he had more to lose than to win by becoming a public servant”.
Caputo came under fire in February after media investigations revealed that he failed, when he became a public servant in 2015, to declare information about his stake in offshore companies managing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax haven.
Drawing comparison with cases of corruption involving the former Kirchner government, Peña said “offshores are not corruption”. The Macri government “has nothing to hide”, he concluded.