Defending Food Sovereignty, Argentine President To Expropriate Grain Speculator, Alarms Wall Street
June 11, 2020 (EIRNS)—In a move that has shaken up Wall Street and the City of London, on June 8 Argentine President Alberto Fernández took a bold step in defense of his nation’s food sovereignty, announcing his intention to expropriate the bankrupt grain exporter Vicentins SAIC and place it under state control. Vicentins, which employs 2,000 people and possesses ports, silos, warehouses and other key infrastructure, is a key operator in Argentina’s $20 billion-a-year largely soy export business, accounting in 2019 for 7.4 million metric tons of exports of soy and derivative products, Bloomberg reported.
Argentina, Fernández said, “is taking a step toward food sovereignty,” as in “a post-pandemic world food will be at the center of the discussion,” Página 12 reported him saying. This is a “strategic and exceptional decision,” he added, pointing out that Vicentins controls 13% of the grain market. “We’re talking about [a company] that not only operates in grains but also beef. These are strategic issues that can allow us to be sovereign as a country in the production of food.”
Strategic indeed. Vicentins was not only mismanaged and looted during the 2015-2019 administration of neo-liberal President Mauricio Macri, taking on huge amounts of debt and defaulting on $1.5 billion at the end of 2019. It has also been investigated for involvement in tax evasion and money-laundering, and it turns out, the Swiss-based Glencore firm, previously owned by mega-speculator and crook Marc Rich, also controlled 67% of Vicentins affiliate, Renova which includes one of the world’s biggest soy-crush plants. In early April, Glencore offered to buy up the remaining stock for $325 million, and had the sale gone through—the coronavirus intervened—Vicentins would have ceased to be the largest exporter of crushed soy.
The hysteria emanating from global speculators and their local affiliates is lawful therefore, as Fernández is challenging the country’s cartel-dominated agricultural export apparatus which has been under private control since President Juan Perón was overthrown in 1955 and his state-controlled agricultural export and marketing company, IAPI, dismantled. Fernández said he wants to keep Vicentins “in Argentine hands.” Wall Street’s Bloomberg was completely unnerved by Fernández’s move, while political and media forces linked to Macri inside Argentina organized protest pots and pans demonstrations, charging that the President’s actions were “illegal and unconstitutional.” The Anglophiles in the Rural Society, representing the landed oligarchy, loudly protested as well, but Vicentins’ own employees and affiliated port workers enthusiastically backed Fernández’s bold action.