New Argentine government fires ‘activist’ media regulator

BUENOS AIRES, (Reuters) – Argentina’s new government fired the country’s chief media regulator yesterday, saying the head of the AFSCA television and radio watchdog commission was openly acting against the country’s new center-right President Mauricio Macri.

Regulator Martin Sabbatella had led previous President Cristina Fernandez’s crack down on then opposition media group Clarin. Early this month he claimed Macri, who was inaugurated on Dec. 10, was orchestrating a “mafia plot” to get rid of him.

His firing followed the forcing out of central bank chief Alejandro Vanoli. Both moves signaled Macri’s determination to get Fernandez loyalists out of key positions and replace them with a team willing to implement his free-market policies.

“Sabbatella has show himself at all times to be a political activist,” Communications Minister Oscar Aguad told reporters in announcing that AFSCA will be combined with the AFTIC telecommunications regulator under new leadership.

“The leaders of both organisms have failed to respond to the hierarchy of the new government,” Aguad said. “They have been in a kind of rebellion.”

Speaking in a loud, defiant tone, Sabbatella told reporters his firing was “an illegal act” that he will fight in court. He agreed with the new communications director that he was “a proud political activist”.

A populist who believed in heavy control of the economy, Fernandez left Argentina in default with scant central bank reserves, a yawning fiscal deficit and high inflation. She is nonetheless revered by millions who were helped by her expansion of welfare programs after a devastating 2002 financial crisis.

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