If you had to guess, a few weeks ago, which Latin finance minister would be
forced to resign in the wake of a corruption scandal, your answer would be very
easy: Ricardo Patiño of Ecuador, who was censured by
his own congress on Friday for insider dealing in his own country’s debt –
a deal which reportedly
netted investors more than $150 million, while Ecuador itself made a healthy
$50 million. (As for Patiño’s personal take? No one knows.)
In the event, however, it was Argentina’s Felisa Miceli who
first, after investigators found $60,000 in banknotes stashed in a brown
paper bag in her office bathroom.
Miceli’s antics stand in stark contrast to the reputation of her predecessor,
Roberto Lavagna, who, although he treated international capital
markets with high-handedness and calculated aggression, was, I believe, clean.
He’s running for president in the upcoming elections, although he has no chance
of beating Cristina Kirchner, the wife of current president
In a way, however, I am heartened by Miceli’s ouster: it means that if you
get caught, in Argentina, you can expect to be punished. In Ecuador, by contrast,
Patiño is, it
seems, deliberately manipulating the market all over again, despite being
caught red-handed the first time. Now that’s a country where ministers
can act with real impunity.