The Macri administration’s cabinet went through yet another shake up today after Néstor Pérez Baliño resigned as Secretary of Health. It’s the second most important post in the Ministry that is currently headed by Jorge Lemus. The trend could continue with the Environment Minister, rabbi Sergio Bergman, being on thin ice after failing to act in the face of multiple climate-related incidents took place throughout the country.
When explaining the reasons for his resignation as the Secretary of Health, Baliño said the decision came as a result of a “restructuring process within the ministry,” and that he will continue working as an adviser. “My secretariat managed 70 percent of the budget. Now there will be two smaller units with two secretaries and I will have another role as an adviser within the ministry,” he said.
This split resembles what happened at the Economy Ministry, where the now former Minister Alfonso Prat Gay was asked to resign in order to pave the way for the creation of the Ministry of Treasury, now led by Nicolás Dujovne, and the Ministry of Finance, headed by Luis Caputo.
Baliño went on to defend Jorge Lemus’ administration, criticized for allegedly not using all resources he has at their disposal. He said that 95 percent of the budget was used this year and that the number will increase to 98 by the end of the month. “It means it will be among the ministries with the largest budgetary execution,” he said.
However, resignations from several high ranking officials from key areas such as vaccinations, epidemiology and the fight against HIV/AIDS during the past couple of weeks could be linked to these claims, even though the ministry as an institution officially denies it. “We wanted a renovation to strengthen the area,” Lemus explained after Daniel Bosich, in charge of administering the Ministry’s budget, left his post. However, this was only one of the several reported cases of the kind.
As mentioned, another high ranking official who is on thin ice is Environment Minister Sergio Bergman, and not because he went to the Perito Moreno glacier to hold a presentation on the effects of global warming.
Dad jokes aside, according to Perfil, Bergman still has Macri’s support, but knows that if things continue going down this path he won’t for long.
That’s likely one of the reasons he has been regularly making the headlines since he took office, overlooking the firemen fighting the massive fires that mostly affected the provinces of La Pampa, Río Negro and Buenos Aires during the past few weeks.
The headlines and photo ops haven’t helped the minister’s approval ratings: He said the fires were “a sort of apocalyptic prophecy” using almost religious terminology to describe a secular, scientifically monitored threat. He later went back on his words and assured the public that he is “very convinced” that the ministry he leads is working “very seriously” to tackle the issue. “Climate change has effects we have to address, it’s not speculation, it’s a fact,” he assured in an attempt to illustrate the change in his approach to the problem.
For now, the Government does not seem to be of the opinion that the wildfires were a direct reflection of his mismanagement and is open about providing financial aid to those affected. La Pampa Governor Carlos Verna begged to differ though. On January 5th he said that “until a few days ago [several days after the fires started] the Government hadn’t offered any help… The Interior Ministry didn’t even call to ask about the situation,” he added.
However, this is not the only area where his ability to lead the ministry was questioned. Supreme Court President, Ricardo Lorenzetti, complained to Macri about Bergman’s lack of knowledge on the pollution problems facing the Riachuelo River. This has been one of the highest profile issues for most environment ministers, one that each tried to tackle but none was been able to deliver on. For now, Bergman still has time to turn things around.
Prat Gay’s departure was arguably the cabinet’s most important shake up so far, but not the only other case. Besides the aforementioned cases, Carlos Foradori resigned as Deputy Foreign Minister in December last year and was replaced by Pedro Raúl Villagra. If Bergman ends up being relieved from his post, he would become the second minister to leave Macri’s cabinet since it was formed in December 2015.