December 9, 2013
Setting the stageFriday, August 23, 2013
Biggest surprise? It was so boring
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. An election year should be the time for the Council of the Americas to shine. After all, over the past few years the annual gathering has become known as one of the few events in the Argentine political world where members of the opposition and the government gather under one roof.
Yesterday though, the lack of excitement was palpable in the halls of the Alvear Palace Hotel. Politicians who repeated rote lines, business leaders who repeated the expected, and a hotel that was unusually empty long before Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa spoke, the man who was obviously placed last in the programme, because he was supposed to be the biggest draw of the day.
But by the time the big winner of the primaries spoke, it seemed many had given up hope that something interesting was going to happen. There were plenty of empty seats in the hall, when just a few hours earlier it was standing room only to hear YPF chief executive Miguel Galuccio speak.
Scheduled for 15 minutes, the YPF head went on for almost an hour, celebrating how right things were going for the company.
It was fitting. Galuccio had been the big star of the show last year — a rare chance to see the man who just months before had become the head of the newly nationalized YPF. At the time, Galuccio was flanked then by Chevron Latin America and Africa chief Ali Moshiri in what was supposed to be a clear display of confidence of the as-of-yet unknown (and untested) YPF leader.
This year though, the highlight of his speech was not technical but political. Galuccio picked up on a theme repeatedly uttered by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: criticizing the messenger for distorting the message. In a statement that could have come out of the president’s mouth, Galuccio called for “responsibility ... when someone writes something in a newspaper,” defending the recently sealed agreement with Chevron as well as insisting that unconventional drilling was safe for the environment.
A crowd of impatient journalists waited outside the “VIP sector” of the conference to see if the “magician,” as he’s commonly known, would speak. In the end, he refused. And for the journalists, the highlight was seeing Galuccio and Massa share a hug — “Cristina isn’t going to like that,” one of the journalists muttered.
In the hallways, there was such little movement that the big star of the day became Eduardo Eurnekian, who was repeatedly asked about the government’s order for LAN to leave its hangar in the Jorge Newbery Metropolitan Airport.
Then came the turn of Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli, whose tone of voice was so monotone that he appeared to be a parody of himself.
He was followed by two governors, one of whom — Santa Fe’s Antonio Bonfatti — had a power point presentation that consisted entirely of a triangle that stayed up on the screen throughout his talk.
“A triangle is speaking, apparently,” muttered a journalist in the press area to no one in particular — the room was practically empty.