Tuesday, October 16, 2012
By Mariana Verón
The unusual retention of the Frigate Libertad on the coasts of Ghana collected its first political casualties. In the midst of ever more bloody internal fighting in the national cabinet, the chief of the Army, Carlos Alberto Paz, left his post yesterday.
In his place, President Cristina Kirchner nominated his deputy, Vice Admiral Daniel Alberto Martin, the first submarine man to reach the top job of the Armada.
However, far from resolving the conflict over the decision by Ghana’s courts to side with a demand from foreign bondhodlers and impede the sailing out of the Frigate, detained for 13 days on the African coast, the casualties offered by the president opened up even more internal fissures. This time, the most exposed in the dispute are Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and Defense Minister Arturo Puricelli, the latter being affected yesterday by the President’s decisions.
The exit of Carlos Alberto Paz, who came to his post a year ago, was the consequence of a first measure by Cristina Kirchner. By the morning, the President had let go Commodore Alfredo Mario Blanco, the author of a letter from May 14 in which he asked for authorization to change the destination of the Frigate Libertad. In place of stopping in Nigeria, as had been scheduled, he asked for permission to do so in Ghana. The article was published last Sunday by journalist Horacio Verbitsky in Página/12. Also fired was the secretary general of the Navy, Luis María González Day, who two days ago had said the responsibility of the trip was shared between Defense and Foreign Relations.
Thus the Navy was disconnected from the mistake. Both Blanco and González Day were subject to an administrative summary to investigate their responsibilities.
According to what official sources told LA NACION, with those two punishments to his subordinates, Pas was obliged to step down. He met with Puricelli in the morning, on the 13th floor of the Edificio Libertador, and told him that he himself had authorized González Day to publicly speak to clarify the situation. He became, this way, the poltician responsible for pointing against the ministers.
"Here there are two projects at play. Those that want an uncritical rebuilding with the United States, like Puricelli, and those who don’t, like Timerman,” said a diplomatic source to LA NACION.
Foreign Minister Timerman yesterday cancelled a scheduled trip and spent most of the afternoon at the Casa Rosada meeting with the President. At 9:35pm, he made no statements when LA NACION approached him as he just left the office of the secretary for Public Communication, Alfredo Scoccimarro. Written on that line is also Security Minister Nilda Garré, former head of the Defense ministry and a friend of Verbitsky.
In the midst of the conflict, Puricelli fell wounded. He is responsible for the actions of the Navy and the first measures taken by Cristina Kirchner pointed towards his area of influence.
Yesterday, even in official offices the possibility was being analyzed to name an official close to the President as Puricelli’s second, to exercise more political control over him.
The minister arrived in the job at the end of 2010, when Cristina Kirchner created the Security ministry and put Garre there. According to how official sources describe it, the exit of Paz from the Navy was a necessity for Puricelli to seek to unwind the political pressure.
In the midst of the passing of the buck from one area to another in the government, yesterday diplomatic negotiations resumed to try to solve the judicial matter from last Thursday which determined that the ship could not depart the port of Tema.
Vice Foreign Minister Eduardo Zuain and Vice Defense Minister Alfredo Forti arrived in Accra to try some efforts to solve the conflict. The govenrment will not accept the demands of the bondholders, and will not pay the US$20 million in bail money.
Forti was the one who sent the letter with the change in the itinerary for the Frigate. In the letter he asked that “due authorization” be requested from the Foreign Ministry for the change in the port.
The great unknown is who signed that authorization. “I am sure there are people responsible on all sides,” said an official last night. For the moment, the President marked down Defense and the Navy in the search for those responsible for allowing the Frigate to stop in Ghana.
Yesterday they will continue work in the legal section of the Foreign Ministry, led by Susana Ruiz Cerruti, to determine the manner of undoing the attachment.
The suspicion from the Casa Rosada, for now unproven, is that information on the change of port was leaked to representatives of the vulture fund NML Captial Limited, which filed the demand.
In the Navy, in turn, they argue that there is no leak possible because the travel plan was put together in advance by several months and is not secret.
To read this article in Spanish, visit: http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1517664-por-la-crisis-de-la-fragata-echan-al-jefe-de-la-armada