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Electricity watchdog chief quits

A man braves the heat to get some sun in Puerto Madero yesterday.
Heat wave returns, brings outages with it

As a new heatwave brought isolated blackouts in several neighbourhoods across Buenos Aires City and its suburbs yesterday, the head of the ENRE electricity watchdog, Mario de Casas, resigned.

The government announced what could be considered the first political casualty of the wave of blackouts that has struck the Greater Buenos Aires region over the last month through a low-key announcement in the Official Gazette.

De Casas submitted his resignation on January 16, which was accepted by Planning Minister Julio De Vido, according to decree 54/2014. De Casas will be replaced by Ricardo Martínez Leone, who was already a member of the organization‘s board of directors.

De Casas leaves the government regulator years after he had a brief moment of fame when he became the only ally of then vice-president Julio Cobos who did not leave the government after relations between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her second-in-command soured.

De Casas got to Buenos Aires at the hands of Cobos, who knew him from his home province of Mendoza, where De Casas had been the head of the EPRE provincial energy regulator.

After Cobos gave the crucial negative vote against the administration’s plans to implement a system of export duties for crops — a move that ostracized him from the Executive — De Casas became an ally of Planning Minister Julio De Vido and largely kept a low profile.

De Casas was a regular writer in daily Página/12, which often published his columns that spoke in favour of the government’s policies.

His resignation hardly came as a surprise.

“It was evident that De Casas’ departure was coming and, in fact, over the past few days it was ENRE’s vice-president (Luis Barletta) who participated in the meetings between the government and the distributors,” a source told the DyN news agency.

Martínez Leone, the new head of ENRE hails from the province of Chaco where he was once president of the provincial electricity distributor Secheep and is reportedly an ally of Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich.

MORE OUTAGES

Electricity outages were reported in numerous neighbourhoods yesterday although the cuts did not appear to be as widespread as in earlier heat waves.

Blackouts were reported in the City neighbouhoods of Villa Santa Rita, Villa General Mitre, Caballito, Flores, Barracas, Boedo, Monte Castro, Parque Chas, Villa del Parque, Paternal and San Telmo, among others.

In the Greater Buenos Aires area, some of the neighbourhoods where residents reported outages included Lanús, Olivos, Martínez, Quilmes, Témperley, Monte Grande, San Fernando, Castelar, Esteban Echeverría and Avellaneda.

Meanwhile, the OCEBA, which regulates electricity in the Buenos Aires province called on provincial distributor EDELAP to refund users for the damages that took place in blackouts this year.

The government’s intraministerial Crisis Committee that was set up after the numerous blackouts last month was sent to assist residents in the City neighbourhoods of Balvanera, Flores, Villa Crespo, Caballito and Boedo.

The committee is made up of members of the Planning, Securitiy, Social Development, Health and Defence ministries.

Herald with DyN, Télam

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