Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra has been charged with using public money to fund her campaign for Secretary General of the United Nations last year.
In November, Marcos Peña, Argentina’s Chief of Cabinet, estimated that Malcorra had used over AR$ 1.3 million in public funds to pay for plane tickets and other expenses during her campaign for the post that was eventually won by the former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres. On the basis of this data, lawyer Denis Pitté Flechter presented an allegation of “embezzlement of services and misappropriation of public funds” before Judge Maria Servini de Cubría.
Formally requesting an investigation into the actions of the well-known politician, federal prosecutor Patricio Evers claimed, “there are elements that call for penal action against Malcorra.” He confirmed that the chancellor and her secretaries had spent a total of AR$ 1,347,854. The investigation will oblige Marcos Peña to provide information on whether the candidacy expenses were authorized by President Mauricio Macri, and “if it was motivated by foreign policy objectives.”
Many specifics are already known. In a report submitted to the Senate in October, Peña detailed the expenses of each trip taken by Malcorra and her colleagues, for example. The chancellor spent AR$ 152,000 on one trip to New York, plus AR$ 22,000 in extra expenses. Another visit abroad, which took her to New York, Luanda and Cairo, apparently cost a total of AR$ 356 thousand.
The Chief of Cabinet also accounted for Malcorra’s team’s expenses. Tomás Giudici, the chancellor’s secretary, claimed AR$ 375,000 for two trips to New York, while Marcos Stancanelli asked to be reimbursed for AR$ 195,000.
Meanwhile, Malcorra has not been lying low in the face of these charges. Instead, she’s been rather diliberate in putting her position in the spotlight, weighing in on controversial subjects such as Donald Trump’s first weeks as US President and the imprisonment of Milagro Sala.
In an interview published this morning by newspaper El País, when asked about the new US President’s administration’s move to block the importation of Argentine lemons and hinder access to visas, Malcorra told journalist Carlos Cué that “Trump has shaken up the world, not only Argentina. We don’t want to cause drama, but it’s obvious that the signs are worrying.”
On the subject of the Mexican Wall, the Argentine politician explained, “Mexico is looking for a way to get closer” to the US at the moment, and the Mexican government has not yet asked for help from other Latin American countries. “We must be careful with what words and gestures we use so as to avoid inadvertently putting an end to any opportunity to solve the problem,” she added, insisting that it is for this reason that Argentina and its neighbours have not been firmer with Trump – they are waiting for a signal from Mexico.
Along the same vein, the chancellor claimed that the Argentine government is focusing on trying to “strengthen ties with Asia and Africa” and progress “the EU’s link with Mercosur”, because an “isolated Argentina does not work.”
Cué used this opportunity to center in on Argentina’s relationship with Spain and in particular the frosty situation between one of Spain’s largest company, Telefónica, and the Argentine government. The journalist asked whether, during Macri’s imminent visit to the country, the president would aim to clear up the conflict that began when his administration introduced telecommunications reforms. However, Malcorra retorted that it was nothing more than “a difference of perspective” and, although it should be sorted, it’s not a matter that needs to be resolved between presidents.
Malcorra’s interviewer also touched upon the political, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela to which the Argentine offered little more than “we cannot import miracles into other countries. We can help, persuade. But the solution for the problems is up to the Venezuelans.” Meanwhile, she put the electoral situation in Brazil down to “a very complex but legal” process.
On a topic closer to home, however, the politician gave a more direct answer: talking about the Milagro Sala case, she insisted that it was giving Argentina the wrong kind of “attention” but “it is a matter that has to be resolved in the province of Jujuy.” Malcorra explained that international organizations find it hard to understand “just how federal Argentina is” but assured Cué that the national Government believes that “it must be resolved as soon as possible.”