The latest corruption scandal rocking the Macri administration comes from a rather unexpected sector of the government: the arts. Specifically, the scandal stems from the National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts (Incaa). Last Wednesday, Culture Minister Pablo Avelluto called the institute’s head, Alejandro Cacetta, to ask for his resignation after an official from his department presented a file revealing alleged irregularities in the way the Incaa’s funds were handled in the department.
Productions with inflated prices, contracts with companies that have board members working at Incaa and extremely high spending on advertisements are among the more serious accusations.
However, not everyone within the audiovisual world agrees with these accusations. The first one to reject them, predictably, was Cacetta himself. In an interview with Clarín, he said that his tenure was nothing but transparent and assured his forceful departure actually has to do with differences he has with Avelluto. “We were having some disagreements over the way to manage things in the institute. If there was any transparency, it was in this tenure,” Cacetta said.
A significant part of the country’s artistic community sided with Cacetta and came out to defend him. They requested Avelluto resign instead and accused the minister of staging a falsehood to get rid of him. Yesterday afternoon, over a thousand people gathered at Incaa’s largest cinema, the Gaumont, to make their support visible.
Moreover, several entities from the sector issued a release requesting his reinstatement. “The request for his resignation is surprising and represents a change in the concept of transparency and respect for the institutions that the Culture Ministry had when choosing the Incaa’s authorities,” points out the release, signed by the Argentine Cinema Industry Chamber, the General Association of Producers, the Chamber of Independent Film Distributors and the Cinematographic Industry, among others.
The text goes on to list Cacetta’s achievements during his tenure and defend his integrity, arguing that “It’s necessary to clarify that he got his post because of a general consensus reached by all the industry, that chose him in a democratic assembly that had the approval of the Culture Ministry, an unprecedented event in the national culture scene.”
“Making decisions without any consensus or dialogue does nothing but replicate the practices we seek to abolish once and for all, if we want to have a long term, industrialized, economically sustainable and culturally developed project,” the release finishes. Cacetta also received the individual support of renowned filmmakers such as Luis Puenzo, David Blaustein and director of Academy Award winning movie “El Secreto de sus Ojos,” Juan Jose Campanella.
In contrast, sources close to the new Incaa administration backed Avelluto’s decision and anticipated that several other official will also leave the institution in the next days. “For example, the Anti-Corruption office had determined that Cacetta couldn’t get involved in deals with Patagonik, the production company he worked at before taking his post. But he decided to give Cinecolor, which is a shareholder in Patagonik, a monthly contract of AR $600,000 instead of excusing himself and letting other officials make that decision. There was a clear conflict of interest there,” the sources exemplified.
“He lacked attitude to investigate and get rid of the practices that we considered suspicious,” said Avelluto when explaining his decision. That’s why the Culture Minister decided to appoint the institute’s Vice President, Ralph Hayek, as Cacetta’s replacement to “Move forward with the changes that he didn’t want to implement.” It’s yet to be seen if the sectors defending the now former Incaa head are thinking of taking any measures to get him reinstated, or if his days leading the entity have definitely come to an end.