April 17, 2014
Monday, December 23, 2013

Uruguay taps Central Bank head for Economy

Uruguay’s President José Mujica.

Local media says Mujica will announce Mario Bergara’s designation today

MONTEVIDEO — Uruguayan media said yesterday that Central Bank chief Mario Bergara is the most likely replacement for Economy Minister Fernando Lorenzo, who resigned on Saturday just moments before being questioned by a judge over his role in the bankruptcy of Pluna, Uruguay’s flag-carrier.

According to Uruguayan newspaper El País, Bergara’s nomination could be confirmed today.

Jorge Polgar, an adviser at the Economy Ministry, could the next Central Bank head.

Local economists and businessmen agreed yesterday that Bergara’s designation will not pose risks to the Uruguayan economy and that the new minister will probably give “continuity” to the former minister’s policies.

Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi will temporarily head the Economy Ministry until a new minister is sworn in.

‘A brilliant minister’

While announcing his resignation on Saturday, Mujica defended the conduct of Lorenzo, his minister since March 2010, as local television broadcast images of the economist entering a courthouse Saturday morning.

“He has been a brilliant minister,” Mujica told reporters. “We have no doubt about his ethical integrity.”

Pluna flew for 75 years before going bankrupt last year, costing the state millions of dollars. Lorenzo tried to sell the company’s assets in an auction where the only buyer turned out to be a stand-in for Pluna’s competitor, Argentine businessman Carlos López Mena. His Buquebus company dominates travel between Montevideo and Buenos Aires.

A prosecutor wants Lorenzo and Banco República president Fernando Calloia charged with abuse of power, and Pluna’s last private owner, Matias Campiani, charged with fraud.

Mujica’s choice

According to Uruguayan media, Mujica had signalled Bergara as his choice to head the Economy Minister when he took office in 2009 but, at the time, he had preferred to stay at the Central Bank.

Bergara was also the likely candidate to succeed Lorenzo next year if former president and Broad Front’s presidential hopeful Tabaré Vázquez won the election. The Pluna case only pushed the day closer.

“There won’t be any changes. There would have been if they had thought of somebody else,” Uruguayan businessman Pablo Moya told El País yesterday. “But the (eventual) designation of Bergara shows there will be continuity,” he added.

Herald with Télam, online media

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