(Bloomberg) -- Argentina’s Economy Minister Sergio Massa announced on Sunday night the shake-up of the country’s energy leadership, removing top allies of Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as the government prepares to cut electricity subsidies.
Flavia Royon will take over Monday as Energy Secretary, replacing Kichner’s ally Dario Martinez, Massa said in a tweet. Santiago Yanotti, Federico Bernal and Cecilia Garibotti will be Royon’s undersecretaries, he said.
The move puts one of Argentina’s most politically sensitive offices under Massa after he took over the Economy Ministry last week amid heightened market volatility. Argentina spent close to $11 billion in energy subsidies last year and the government agreed this year to scale back the payouts to reduce the fiscal deficit as part of its deal with the International Monetary Fund.
“Our goal must be energy sovereignty and the transformation of Argentina as a power in this sector,” Massa said.
Martinez, who confirmed his exit in separate tweets, was often at odds with former Economy Minister Martin Guzman, who resigned in early July citing lack of political support. The energy officials close to Kirchner resisted Guzman’s attempts to remove subsidies on utility bills that would translate into higher prices for consumers.
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Raising utility rates poses deep political costs in Argentina, where a large portion of the population equates electric and gas bills to taxes.
Massa, one of the leaders of the ruling coalition that governs the country since late 2019, took over with more political clout than his predecessors. In his first announcement on Aug. 3, he confirmed utility rates would go up and those receiving subsidies would need to limit energy consumption.
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