Argentina: A fight for the future of YPF

Tensions  rise over the future of oil company YPF,  there’s collateral damage from the Ciccone scandal, and President Fernández de Kirchner meets with Obama.

Rumours and warnings about YPF

This week has seen fervent speculation with regard to the Argentine government’s intentions for the oil company YPF, which is majority owned by the Spanish oil giant Repsol.

On Wednesday the governor of Santa Cruz, Daniel Peralta, announced that the province’s largest oil concession would be confiscated from YPF. The move followed weeks of similar measures in Argentina’s other oil-producing provinces. The Argentine government accuses YPF of failing to invest the required amounts in national oil production.

As rumours mounted that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would  announce a plan to return the company to state control on Thursday, there was a strong reaction from the Spanish government.

José Manuel Soria, the Spanish Minister for Industry, Energy and Tourism, said that the government would defend the interests of Spanish companies, and that ‘if there are gestures of hostility they will have consequences’.

However, after meeting with the governors of oil-producing provinces on Thursday, Fernández de Kirchner made no announcement regarding further steps. Yet on Friday there were more warnings of retaliatory action from the Spanish foreign minister. Spanish press have suggested that Madrid sees nationalisation as inevitable.

During the week, YPF’s share price suffered heavy losses in the stock exchanges of both New York and Buenos Aires. The share price has dropped 51% since January, when the Argentine government started to question the company’s investment policy in the country.

Ciccone: the executive and judiciary go to war

The investigation into alleged corruption involving Vice President Amado Boudou claimed an unexpected victim this week. Boudou used a statement on the subject in the Senate on 5 April to accuse the Ciccone case’s investigating judge Daniel Rafecas and the Attorney General Esteban Righi of malpractice.

Boudou accused Righi’s law practice of offering to help ‘grease’ relations with judges for him when he worked at the Ministry of the Economy. The Attorney General, a prominent figure in peronism since the return of Perón to Argentina in 1973, resigned on Tuesday this week, vowing to clear his name.

His proposed replacement, Daniel Reposo, drew criticism from opposition sectors, who stated that he was renowned as ‘the president’s man’ and would not be sufficiently independent for the role.

Boudou’s claims against the judge Rafecas will be examined next week by the Council of the Magistracy.

In another twist, José Núñez Carmona, who along with Boudou is being investigated for influence trafficking in dealings with the currency printer Ciccone, began judicial proceedings against Carlos Rívolo, the prosecutor in the case.

Fernández de Kirchner meets Obama in Cartagena

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner met with President Barack Obama of the United States at the Cumbre de las Américas (Summit of the Americas) in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, this week.

During the half-hour meeting on Saturday, Obama is understood to have raised the subject of Argentina’s recent import restrictions, which were the subject of a complaint to the WTO last month.

However, the official White House communiqué emphasised the ‘positive’ nature of the agenda, and Obama was reported to have remarked that he wanted it made clear that there were ‘no demands made on any subject’.