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ARGENTINA | 10-12-2019 11:42

Questions arise over next chief of AFI intelligence services

New president criticises intelligence services in inaugural speech and hints at overhaul of AFI agency. Fernández has said previously that the next chief of the AFI has been identified – but he has yet to announce a name.

Changes are afoot for the Federal Intelligence Agency (Agencia Federal de Inteligencia, AFI), Alberto Fernández announced Tuesday, as he made his first speech as Argentina's new president.

Speculation has been rife over the past few weeks over the identity of the AFI's next chief. Last Friday, when the Peronist leader unveiled his Cabinet, there was no new information forthcoming about the individual, though Fernández did say the person who will lead the intelligence services under his administration has been identified.

“We have decided, but we are still deciding how to face this issue, that’s why he’s not here,” answered the president-elec at Friday's press conference.

The holder of the AFI post is one of a handful of key positions that Fernández has yet to reveal. In a universe of doubt, it has remained – perhaps appropriately – the largest secret of all.

Kirchnerites are said to be seeking a return to their reform package outlined during the last years of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, particularly those that would introduce transparency into the book-keeping of federal reserve funds and restricting identity protection laws to only intelligence agents.

Fernaández seemed to drop a hint in his speech on Friday that those reforms would be adopted, calling for a restructuring as he criticised the actions of shadowy intelligence agents.

“Never again to the secret state, never again to the obscurity of funds, never again to depths of democracy, never again is never again,” Fernández said, repurposing the famous ‘Nunca más’ phrase so associated with the human rights movement.

Traditionally, more than experience, administrations tend to prioritise trust in the head of the intelligence agency.

Former justice minister Alberto Iribarne – who Fernández has mentioned in multiple interviews – has reportedly lost that crucial element, Perfil reported last weekend, with a post for him now likely to be found abroad. Another name that has circulated for the post is that of José “Pepe” Albistur, the owner of the Puerto Madero apartment rented by Fernández for years.

There is also speculation over another handful of key positions, such as the new chiefs of state-run airline Aerolíneas Argentinas and the new head of Public Media Systems. 

Other confirmed absences from the official press conference on Friday, which are now confirmed include Miguel Pesce as the head of the Central Bank, Sergio Lanziani as Energy Minister, and Guillermo Nielsen as the head of state-run energy giant YPF. 

– TIMES/PERFIL, with reporting from Mariano Beldyk.

by Perfíl/Mariano Bedlyk

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