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Founded in 1876 Monday, October 22, 2007 Edition Nº 1794
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Home   >  Editorial   >  March of the Penguins


March of the Penguins


Who would have thought that the home province of an increasingly popular president should be the main focus of political instability in Argentina with Carlos Sancho now the fourth man to be the governor of Santa Cruz in the past three years? Sergio Acevedo, who resigned so abruptly on Wednesday, should have been "condemned to success" — enjoying a mandate of 70 percent, a budget of two billion pesos for less than 200,000 inhabitants of the Patagonian province, a further two billion for public works, half a billion dollars of oil royalties in the process of repatriation from Switzerland (a delicate issue) and tourists pouring into El Calafate (even if the Perito Moreno glacier fails to crack up obligingly during daylight hours). But in fact Acevedo could not win — rebuked for mishandling the Las Heras riots which led to the death of provincial policeman Jorge Sayago in early February, he was criticized by President Néstor Kirchner on Thursday for "police excesses" in arresting those responsible.
Acevedo gave "strictly personal reasons" for his resignation (as if public office could be held on the basis of personal motives) but the real reasons are not impossible to guess. The Las Heras bloodshed was the most obvious trigger of Acevedo’s downfall — especially since he was expected to be better prepared for the social violence as a former SIDE intelligence chief — but not the only cause. The two billion pesos allocated to public works probably ended up being more of a liability than an asset because they brought Acevedo into conflict with Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido, the most powerful member of Kirchner’s Cabinet. But while incurring the presidential displeasure was undoubtedly fatal for Acevedo, he should also be seen as a victim of his own incapacity — a zealous hatchet man for Kirchner’s purge of the Supreme Court while a national deputy, he seems to have been a poor administrator with frequent changes in his provincial Cabinet.
Yet the problem is by no means limited to Acevedo’s personality — there is no reason to suppose that Sancho will have any less problems being his own man in the home province of a president for whom his Río Gallegos weekends are such a core part of his schedule. At best Sancho will be a caretaker until next year’s elections, whenever they are. Paradoxically, electing a president from the regions rather than the metropolis seems to result in the opposite of federalism, at least as far as Kirchner’s own province is concerned.

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