The practice of nepotism is so normalized in Argentina that it can come off as being almost a given in some sectors. Nepotism has become something of a hot button issue over the past few months amid a wave of reports and public pressure mounting against public officials for the problematically high number of relatives currently being employed by the State.
Last night, public unrest over nepotism reached a new height as Jorge Lanata presented a report on his program Periodismo Para Todos, revealing the multiple public officials, from both sides of the political spectrum, who are employing family members.
Lanata’s exposé comes after lawmakers on a provincial and national level, encouraged by Macrismo‘s promise for change, have taken a stand against this all-too-prevalent social ill. At the beginning of the month, Guillermo Castello, a provincial legislator from the Coalicion Civica-Ari, put forward a new bill to combat nepotism and denounced various examples of its practice in the province of Buenos Aires. For Castello, the fight against nepotism is key to “realizing the principles” of Cambiemos. The objective, according the legislator, is “to establish a republican meritocracy and to have a more professional bureaucracy”.
Last week, the denouncement of nepotism extended beyond the province of Buenos Aires when national lawmaker Lucas Iniccio of PRO put forward a similar bill to the Lower House of Congress with the objective of stamping out nepotism at every level of national politics. The bill, which applies to “officials within the three branches of government, the public prosecution service, and to local authorities, as well as state enterprises”, prohibits any of the former from hiring any direct blood relative, their spouse, their domestic partners, and the blood-relatives of their spouse or domestic partner. However, crucially, these restrictions will not be applied if there is an evident “competitive and meritocratic selection process”.
The bill, Iniccio clarified, would not be retroactive but “a register would be compiled of all those who had hired relatives before the law came into force”. Yesterday evening, that register became public knowledge via Lanata’s report.
Among the biggest names now under public scrutiny are Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, Minister of Interior, Rogelio Frigerio, and Minister of Communications, Oscar Aguad. Each of these three figures from within the Macri administration have employed relatives but defended their actions, claiming that their relatives were employed on account of nothing other than their own individuals credentials.
This is where nepotism comes a grey, and not entirely objective concept. All accusations of nepotism within the government have been, and inevitably will continue to be, rebutted with the claim that all relatives employed by government officials were selected through the loophole that Iniccio’s bill provides: the “competitive and meritocratic selection process”. “If you’re asking me if there are relatives of officials working for the State, my response is yes,” said Francisco Ibarra, the Minister of Modernization. “But that doesn’t mean that nepotism exists.” Patricia Bullrich’s son, Francisco Langieri Bullrich, who has been working for “Pais Digital” since May of this year, “was given the job on account of his specific skill-set”, the Minister of Security claimed. Oscar Aguad said that it was his son-in-law’s (Rodrigo de Loredo) “impressive career” that landed him his job at ARSAT.
Clearly, the amount of family members employed by state officials is indicative of a system in which nepotism is rife. Even when an employed relative has “specific skill-set” or an “impressive career”, that doesn’t mean that their employment was totally meritocratic and that their relation to a known figure in the government didn’t give them “unfair advantages” to some extent or other. At the same time, it’s difficult to say with absolute certainty that they did. For that reason, the bill can’t be retroactive and we can’t legitimately condemn Bullrich, Aguad and co with any conviction. But the bill and the stir it has caused will ensure that future cases of officials employing relatives will be looked upon with a much larger degree of scrutiny and the nepotism epidemic will, hopefully, slowly abate.
Other relatives of State Officials working in the public administration within the following departments.
Ministry of Production: Andrés Peña and Félix Peña, brother and father of Marcos Peña, the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers of Argentina.
Ministry of Finance: Juan Antonio de Prat Gay, cousin of Alfonso Prat-Gay.
Ministry of Health: Cecilia Loccisano, wife of the Minister of Labour Jorge Triaca.
United States Embassy: Guillermo Laje, cousin of the ambassador Martín Lousteau.
Senate: Enrique Pinedo, brother of the acting president of the Upper House, Federico Pinedo. Alejandra Illia, cousin of the vice-president Gabriela Michetti. Carolina Pichetto, daughter of senator Miguel Angel Pichetto.
Lawmakers: Hugo Antonio Moyano, son of the the former secretary of the General Labor Confederation (CGT) Hugo Moyano, is an advisor to the Frente Renovador, in which his brother Facundo Moyano occupies a post as lawmaker.