June 18, 2013
Binner: The government has never understood the farmers
By Luciana Ekdesman
Hermes Binner, the leader of the centre-left Broad Progressive Front (FAP), was the sensation in the last presidential elections, running second after President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and his Socialist-led coalition aims to rule in 2015.
Binner currently organizes forums and meetings, sponsored by the CEMUPRO municipalities and provinces studies centres, throughout the country in order to build a political alternative to the ruling party. Although he is currently not in office, he is still a key figure in the national arena.
— During the conflict between farmers and the national government that took place in 2008 you were the Governor of one of the provinces that were most affected, how do you see the current scenario?
— The problem is not resolved, mainly because the national government has not understood the farmers. Not only is soy affected, but also the whole agribusiness production. They can’t come up with a solution because they do not have officials that understand the issue.
— Can you give an example?
— Take the beef industry, for which we are famous worldwide. There was a period when it was cheaper to give away calves than to feed them. If we shut down the production of calves, we close and cut all the production chain and this affects the processing plants and exports, we do not meet the Hilton quota and we do not have livestock to satisfy demands. We take the fastest way through feedlots, getting meat with more fat than the ones raised in farms and all is distorted.
— What do you think about the import measures implemented by Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno?
— They are detrimental. No country in the world is self-sufficient in everything. If books and medicine imports are banned, we are in a cumbersome land. We should try to revive trade relations with our neighbouring countries. It’s impossible for Argentina to take off without Brazil. We need to work together. There is a need to revive the Mercosur economic union, a customs union.
— How should ties with the European Union and the United States be?
— We should do business with Europe and the US, also with Pacific Asia, but in this case there are some weaknesses.
— (Vice-President Amado) Boudou, who is facing a legal case, has hinted that there was a link between you and Boldt printing company, ¿what is your relation?
— Casinos did not exist in Santa Fe province until a Peronist law was passed and when we came to government everything was done.
— And regarding the printing of ballot papers in last year’s elections?
— It was put out to tender, supported by the provincial Legislature and the Electoral Court and it was made with the companies included in the list of State suppliers. The mechanism is absolutely guaranteed to the point that we requested the two best bidders to improve the offer and we saved one million pesos.
— What positive aspects do you see in the President’s administration?
— There are positive points, but since there are so many negative ones, it is difficult to find them. The most negative one is impunity. We have had allegations about cases being assigned to the same judge by lot and then none of those cases were solved.
— During the institutional crisis of 2001 you were Rosario’s mayor. Can you compare that time with today?
— There is no comparison possible because in that crisis seven citizens died. We are currently living a complex situation, and reality could be better. We will do everything possible to strengthen democracy.
— Do you agree with the methods applied by the national government to voice Argentina’s sovereignty claims over the Malvinas Islands?
— Since childhood we were taught to draw Malvinas and to paint them light blue and white. It is the land of the future due to its fishery and oil resources, but also for their Antarctic position. The Antarctic Treaty System will expire and countries worldwide will make claims on that continent.
— Is there more awareness to get them back?
— The Argentine people need symbolic facts to unite them. This reality is not part of a government propaganda style, but it is the culture and the history of a country what matters.
— How do you see Argentina’s image in the rest of the world?
— We need reliable institutions and the idea of building a country with values. It is an unpredictable country. Investors see that history repeats itself. When they make a huge investment, they land, they put the project on track, and then, the rules change. This is also a demand by local business leaders. There is a lack of legal security.
— What do you think about legalizing abortion?
— The Supreme Court of Justice’s decision in the case of rape was correct. It is an issue that needs to be fully analyzed, respecting cultural values. As a doctor, I think that it is important to defend life. As the education levels of men and women increase, unwanted pregnancy decreases abruptly. We should think about general education as one of the tools to improve the quality of life.
— And what about the legalization of drugs?
— It is a way to dismantle the business, the illegal drug trade. There are highly positive results in other countries and it would be very important to achieve it here with some precautionary measures in order to cut the chain.
— Would you like to find other allies for the next elections?
— We are interested in having people join our project, but the fundamental starting point is consensus among the FAP members. We are always open to dialogue and agreement, listening and forfeiting sectorial interests in order to build a solid instrument.
— Does PRO, the centre-right party headed by Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri, have the doors open?
— It is difficult because there are other aspects, ideas and proposals on how to deal with problems, but we are open to dialogue.
— Is there a rift between you and Santa Fe Governor Antonio Bonfatti (also Socialist)?
— No, we are too used to seeing governmental issues meddled with party and the State policies. Bonfatti rules for all the residents of the province, not only for those who voted for him, the party has to behave like that. He has responsibilities as Governor and he is doing a perfect job.
— Like in the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Malvinas War...
— The President invited him and so did Tierra del Fuego Governor Fabiana Ríos, with whom we have shared a friendship for years. It was the natural thing to do.
Last book read: El Interior and Todo Va Mal
Last film watched: Un Cuento Chino (Chinese Take-Away)
Last holidays: Villa Gesell in January
Place in the World: Argentina
Favourite food: a good grilled fish
A leader: Alfredo Palacios (first Latin American Socialist legislator)
A friend: Antonio Bonfatti
Binner supported the national government’s decision to expropriate YPF oil and gas company; however, he stated it would be important to include the Sigen general accounting office and the AGN national audit office in the nationalization law in order to provide transparency.
FAP will back the government’s bill in general, but in the article-by-article vote in Congress it will object some points. The coalition’s main doubts include how the compulsory purchase will be paid and how the government will invest in order to boost reserves.