Argentina media regulator investigated over power handover

Argentina’s media regulator under police investigation for presidency power exchange

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Argentina's president-elect Mauricio Macri

Police raided the headquarters of Argentina's media regulator on Friday, prompting the watchdog's head to accuse President-elect Mauricio Macri of involvement in what he called a "mafia plot" designed to force his resignation.

Martin Sabbatella said Macri wanted to replace him as president of the Federal Authority of Audiovisual and Communication Services (AFSCA) but that he would stay in his post until the end of his mandate in 2017.

The raid was the latest incident pointing to increasingly testy relations between conservative Macri and the outgoing leftist president, Cristina Fernandez, ahead of his Dec. 10 swearing in.

"This raid is about the institutional future of AFSCA," Sabbatella told reporters after the police operation.

A spokesman for Macri was not immediately available for comment.

Macri opposes a law signed by Fernandez in 2009 that limits the number of radio and television licenses a single company can hold, a move her critics said was aimed at hobbling media company Grupo Clarin. Clarin has been highly critical of Fernandez's eight years in power.

During campaigning, Macri said he would push for Sabbatella's removal if he won the presidential race and install Miguel de Godoy, an official in the Buenos Aires city administration that he headed. Sabbatella said that de Godoy visited his office on Thursday and asked him to step down.

A judge ordered the raid after Grupo Clarin, led by CEO Hector Magnetto, filed a legal complaint against the regulator over the company's restructuring obligations needed to comply with the 2009 law.

"You can't avoid the feeling that there is a mafia plot, that Macri and Magnetto sent de Godoy to ask us in a friendly way that we break the law," Sabbatella said.

"Since we said we weren't ready to do such a thing they sent the other part of this mafia plot to carry out a raid that has no sense."

Last month, police raided the central bank on the orders of the same judge who was acting on another legal complaint filed by two opposition lawmakers. Macri, who won the Nov. 22 run-off election, wants to replace the central bank chief with a more trusted ally.