December 16, 2017

Alejandro Katz, head of Katz Editores

Sunday, February 7, 2016

‘Milagro Sala’s arrest is a very serious mistake’

Alejandro Katz, head of Katz Editores
Alejandro Katz, head of Katz Editores
Alejandro Katz, head of Katz Editores
By Federico Poore
Herald Staff


Born: 1960

Studies: Degree in Hispanic language and literature from the UNAM (Mexico); pursued postgraduate studies at the Di Tella University (UTDT)

News routine: La Nación, Página/12, Perfil, New York Times, The Guardian, El País (Spain)

Currently reading: Justice for Hedgehogs, Ronald Dworkin

Author and publisher Alejandro Katz was part of a select group of intellectuals who met with President Mauricio Macri in December. He is now “trying to see things in a positive light,” as he puts it, despite having objections to some of the most important measures adopted by the Let’s Change administration in its first two months in power. In this Herald interview, Katz says the government should agree on a specific date to announce that the handover of power process — and therefore, the justification to carry out emergency measures — is over.

What’s your take on the first two months of President Mauricio Macri’s administration?

Until now we’ve only seen very specific measures, so it would be premature to jump to conclusions. I see a clear effort to wield power, but also some doubts on the way the Executive interacts with the other branches of government and with economic powers. Maybe it’s part of a learning process. There are clear signals to markets and investors — but fewer signals to social actors. On the economic front, I see an orthodox monetary framework combined with unconventional fiscal policies, which leads me to believe the government will not pursue an agenda of austerity. Orthodox economists cannot agree to a fiscal deficit that is 5.8 points of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In your book El simulacro (2013) you criticized Kirchnerism for turning a blind eye to the concentration of wealth and accumulation of political power. Isn’t that precisely what the Macri government is doing?

The key question here is: when can we officially declare that the handover of power process is over? Society needs to have a closing date so that its opinion on the government is of the government and not of a “new administration.” I think we can agree on a date such as March 1: it almost coincides with the famous “first 100 days of government,” it’s the end of summer and it’s the month when Congress reconvenes. To give you an answer: I don’t know if this way of doing things is part of the “transitional” style of governing. It makes me uneasy not to know whether the government actually found out that the best way to rule the country is repeating the Kirchnerite ways.

What leads you to suspect that might be the case?

The question is whether the DNU emergency decrees, such as the one signed to appoint justices or to amend the Broadcast Media Law, are actually part of a conscious strategy to approve key legislation without Congress. It’s hard for me to comment on intent. I know the government did things it shouldn’t have done, but I don’t know whether they did them to take advantage of the opportunity or due to a lack of experience. None of these measures were too serious, except maybe the decision to appoint justices by way of decree. Luckily, they backtracked.

What do you make of the arrest of social leader Milagro Sala?

I think it’s a serious mistake. A very serious mistake. I don’t have enough information to decide what kind of error it was — ignorance, arrogance, need — but it was an error indeed. I think there are sound reasons to open criminal investigations against Sala, but what (Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales’ administration) did had nothing to do with all these good reasons. Sala had turned a social organization into a very complex system of power, which surely transgressed all legal limits. But I’m worried that a vindication of the power of the élites over Jujuy’s less well-off may be behind this move. I wouldn’t be so suspicious of their motives if they had followed all the legal procedures.

Rights organizations are worried about the first signs of the Let’s Change administration, which include a meeting between the Human Rights secretary and “guerrilla victims,” statements by Macri’s top adviser Jaime Durán Barba against the head of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and a tense meeting between rights organizations and Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña. What’s your opinion on that?

The human rights policies of the Kirchnerite administrations were misguided. We all know what was done well, it’s what (Graciela) Fernández Meijide and (Beatriz) Sarlo already said. But what about human rights violations taking place now, such as human-trafficking and the situation of indigenous communities? As for the new administration, I don’t know what their plans are. It’s true that Macri did not receive human rights organizations (at the Pink House), I believe he needed to “mediate” the contact to avoid a direct confrontation. He didn’t know what to expect from the meeting — if things turned too agreesive, it would have led to an early break-up.

You recently participated in a meeting between the president and a group of intellectuals at Government House. How did that come about?

I received a phone call from Culture Minister Pablo Avelluto, who told me he wanted to organize that kind of meeting and asked me if I would like to attend the following Wednesday. I didn’t ask him who else had been invited, but once there I found an impeccable group, all those present were people with lots of experience and proven democratic credentials.

What happened at the meeting?

Each of us were asked to provide a brief reflection to share with the president, the vice-president, Peña and Avelluto.

According to journalist Mario Wainfeld, historian Luis Alberto Romero demanded an amnesty blocking human rights trials.

It’s true Romero made a comment on the issue, but he did not speak of an amnesty law. He said some situations that accused of human rights violations were going through were at odds with what the state was supposed to do with people under arrest. If I’m not mistaken, he was speaking about those who are behind bars without a criminal conviction and to people over 80 who have been denied house arrest.

Would you say you’re part of the so-called “democratic left”?

I’m not the only one who says it. (Former National Library head) Horacio González said it as well.

Beatriz Sarlo, who could also be considered a part of that group, has adopted a more critical view toward Macri. Why do you think that is?

Well, she’s much more poignant than me, anything she says is probably better informed and more intelligent (he smiles). I’m trying to see things in a positive light. They just took hold of a very complex, very damaged state.


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