Photo via Diario Vox

TV show El Destape, broadcast by TV channel C5N, reported that the government intends to privatize the construction of Arsat 3, a geostationary communications satellite designed to provide broadband services to users in Argentina. Host Roberto Navarro indicated that the government signed a preliminary agreement with American company Hughes, where both showed their interest in pursuing a potential joint venture to procure and launch one or more satellites of the kind.

According to the document that was published by the show and then picked up by other media outlets, the parties have a “mutual interest in creating a new company” that would be called “Newco.”

“Newco would be owned by Arsat and Hughes, with Arsat holding not more than 49 percent of the total equity, and Hughes holding no less than 51 percent,” reads the agreement, which doesn’t rule out the possibility of other parties joining this project, which is set to cost US$ 230 million.

On May 30, Clarín reported that the government had given the project a green light, after having it on hold since taking office. The decision had to do with the fact that the Arsat 1 and 2, which provide similar services, are operating at almost full capacity.

The show indicated that the preliminary agreement was signed on June 29 by Arsat director Rodrigo de Loredo. Moreover, it argued that the whole thing is illegal because the law for the development of the satellite industry —  passed under the Kirchner administration in 2015 — establishes in its article 8 that the rights of satellites of the kind can’t be given away unless two-thirds of Congress’ members decide so in a special vote. The document’s veracity has not been acknowledged or rebutted by the government.

On its website, Hughes defines itself as “the world’s leading provider of satellite broadband for home and office,” its services reaching more than 100 countries and holding more than 50 percent of the market share in its area.

Members of the opposition have come out to fiercely criticize the government’s —  still unconfirmed —  decision, which they called “scandalous.” In an interview with Página 12, Director of Science and Technology studies in the San Martín University, Diego Hurtado, said that “the agreement gives the business to Hughes, which maintains the satellite’s payload: meaning everything that goes into the satellite and is used to provide the telecommunication services. Hughes keeps the business, strategically speaking,” he said.

He went on to say that “there’s nothing better than technological sovereignty so our companies can do business with high added value, create jobs for our people. In five or ten years, Argentina could have also been exporting telecommunication satellites,” he added.

Jorge Taiana, Senatorial candidate for the electoral front formed by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Citizens’ United Front (FUC), told Radio 10 that “it’s inexplicable why we have to give away 51 percent to a company. It’s quite scandalous, so it’s good that this has surfaced. There’s a good opportunity to impede it because the law itself establishes that they can’t do what they’re doing.” We’ll see what the government has to say about it.