April 17, 2014
Gov’t, PRO cross fire over energy crisis
For The Herald
Kirchnerite officials and PRO allies chose to clash yesterday once again at the height of the worst power crisis in years for BA City and its surrounding districts in Buenos Aires province.
In the meantime, thousands of residents remained unplugged from the electricity grid, still trying to endure in the midst of a historic heat wave without electric power and water supply in higher storeys.
After 14 days in the dark in some neighbourhoods, Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido spearheaded a new political offensive against the Victory Front’s long-standing rival Mauricio Macri, linking the BA City mayor to one of the Edesur utility’s owners: businessman Nicolás Caputo.
“The Italian firm, which is Edesur’s major shareholder, has shown no attitude or presence for solving this problem”, minister De Vido accused yesterday during an inspection of the nuclear power plant Atucha II with Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich in which they announced a future new 745-megawatt reinforcement to the national grid, once it becomes operative from April.
By that time, street road blocks were already a repeated scene from affected neighbours and a group of residents, in the brink of desperation, even split off to cut General Paz Avenue in a bid to call Edesur utility’s attention and recover their electricity supply. Last Friday, De Vido publicly exhorted energy firms not to hide from their clients but yesterday he redoubled his attack and, for the first time, the national ruling Victory Front put local names to Edesur’s corporate logo when De Vido asked the firm’s local shareholders to “commit themselves as Argentines” to unravelling this crisis.
With a keen and indirect approach, De Vido evoked one of Macri’s closest allies among the Argentina-based investors in a pointed move.
“I am referring to Caputo, Escasany and Miguens Bemberg groups, Guillermo Reca and Guillermo Vázquez,” listed the national minister — De Vido may have made reference to José María Vázquez, one of the stakeholders.
“It’s not a criticism at all. I am just asking them to assume their social responsibility as Argentines and act in the face of this scenario the climate is generating”.
Nicolás Caputo’s name did not go unnoticed. Not even by Macri himself who was compelled by a journalist’s intervention to refer to national government’s accusation against one of his lifelong friends and business associates.
“Your question represents the way this (national) government usually reacts against this situations, looking the other way and searching for responsibilities elsewhere. What we have here is a government and companies without capacity of response”.
In case the message wasn’t sufficiently clear, Macri fired a second round, backpedalling on his own promise at the beginning of the news conference to tackle the emergency from a non-confrontational stance.
“We do not want to enter the (national) government’s game of looking for whom to blame when we all know who is exclusively responsible for this situation: the national government”.
A low-profile businessman, Nicolás Caputo and Macri’s friendship dates back to their school years in Cardenal Newman College, when they first met at the age of six.
Since then, two passions have bonded them: soccer and business.
They used to play together, as journalist and current Kirchnerite lawmaker Gabriela Cerruti recalled in her Macri biography El Pibe, and, when they grew up, they started Mirgor, a vehicle air-conditioning system company which soon progressed into a much bigger project partnering with techno giants as Whirlpool and Nokia firms.
Yet, there is a highly iconic episode which describes the deep relationship between them. Back in 1991, when Macri, then president of automotive Sevel, was kidnapped, Caputo was in charge of delivering the ransom money.
Later, Macri would make a radical shift in his professional career, trying his luck as CEO of Boca Juniors soccer club first and then stepping into politics as congressman and, finally, City Hall head.
Even then, his connection with Caputo would never be restricted to childhood memories or sports chats. Through Caputo’s firms Caputo SA and SES SA, the businessman gained a number of public works construction projects in different areas like school remodelling, among others.
Since the beginning of the power collapse, attacks never ceased between PRO and Kirchnerism’s main figures over whom to blame with Edesur and Edenor’s failure to invest to prevent massive failures in their networks.