December 5, 2013
‘Renewal Front reminds me of the UIA’
Former UIA head and Massa ally José Ignacio de Mendiguren talks to the Herald
Lawyer, textile business leader and former Production Minister (2002-2003), José Ignacio de Mendiguren decided to take a leave of absence as the secretary of the Argentina Industrial Union (UIA) to run for the Lower House in the fifth position on Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front (FR) ballot. Mendiguren was head of UIA during two terms and always had a good relationship with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, which he says has now come to an end. In an interview with the Herald at the UIA, Massa’s candidate explained why he decided to make the jump to elected office and described his current criticisms of the government’s economic model.
Why did you decide to be a candidate?
People don’t have a good image of business leaders and I want to change that. We always receive criticism from right and left parties and we never get the credit we deserve. But for that to change we need to encourage a dialogue with society, something I always did while I was the head of the Industrial Union.
Considering your previous support for numerous Kirchnerite economic projects, what changed to make you join Massa’s front?
Argentina had an important economic development based on several factors like low inflation, trade and fiscal surplus and high demand. Now all of them are gone but the government doesn’t recognize it. Refusing to see the current problems and insisting the same path needs to be followed is the worst thing that can be done. I have always supported a model of industrial development so I can’t continue supporting this administration.
Do you agree with the ideas of Massa’s main economic advisers?
Yes. We make up an economic team that is ready to manage the country. I represent an industrial development model that has been updated to 2013. Massa told me the first day I met him that Frente Renovador has a Peronist heart and a modernist head. I added that we have an industrial development soul—and he agreed.
Couldn’t having such a diverse group of politicians under one umbrella lead to confrontation?
No, I am not worried about that. The Renewal Front reminds me of the Industrial Union. Here we have numerous sectors with different interests and points of view. But when you are running a union you have to be able to reach agreements, just like in politics. It’s better to have a group where people think differently rather than one where everbody believes the same things.
How has your candidacy affected your relationship with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, with whom you long had a good relationship?
I always had a good relationship of mutual respect with the president. Most of the issues I discussed with her about the industrial sector were solved. We even attended two G20 summits together. But in later years, any observation I brought to her was seen as a criticism and after I joined the campaign I no longer had a relationship with her. Still, I hope that changes when I reach the Lower House.
How is the relationship between the Renewal Front and the unions?
We have a good relationship because most of them are represented in our party. The objective is to have a workers movement that is as united as possible.
How likely is that Facundo Moyano would join the party?
Facundo has always been a good friend of Sergio’s. I imagine after the elections the agreement will be sealed.
Will Massa run for the presidency in 2015 alongside Reutemann and Lavagna?
The analysis of the 2015 presidential election will begin Sunday. But the fact that they have held several meetings together is a sign of what the future could hold.
Did the issues change between the primaries and the midterms?
Yes and that was thanks to the Renewal Front. During the primaries, only minor issues were discussed. But now major issues like safety and inflation are on the table. If we managed to achieve this in only two months and with three million votes, I imagine we will have an even better result in Sunday’s elections.
Do you think it was effective to pursue the latest tax amnesty?
Applying this measure is the government’s way of recognizing the difficulties it has to hold on to domestic savings. Argentina has systematically applied tax amnesty throughout the years but the government has never questioned how to hold on to these savings. There is a huge gap between Argentina’s potential and its reality.
Are business leaders to blame for the high level of inflation?
Business leaders are not responsible for managing the different areas of the economy to lower inflation. The government has to do that and not ignore the issue. We are the same business leaders as in 2003 when inflation was much lower. The worst thing we can do as a society is to point fingers rather than find solutions.