By Carlos del Frade
The turnover of the thousand companies that sell the most represents almost 80 percent of Argentina's gross domestic product. How do municipal, provincial and national governments exercise political sovereignty over these companies?
The turnover of the thousand companies that sell the most represents almost 80 percent of Argentina's gross domestic product. In good romance this means that a thousand people bill eight out of every ten pesos produced by almost forty million Argentines. A phenomenal concentration of wealth in few hands. Undefeated matrix from the nineties. In the province of Santa Fe, for example, the twenty-six firms within the first hundred that carry out their activities in the territory, invoice 178,383 million pesos, two and a half times the geographical product. In other words, twenty-six people triple in sales what more than three million Santa Fe people produce in a year.
The data comes from the latest issue of “Mercado” magazine, number 1095, from June 2009 and is based on the balance sheets of the companies themselves for 2008. Behind these figures there are stories that deserve to be taken into account to think a different country in the face of the two hundred years of the unfinished collective dream born in May 1810. When will the famous and vaunted distribution of wealth take place? How do municipal, provincial and national governments exercise political sovereignty over these companies? Little questions about obscene numbers. Economic power and recent stories. This is what the following note talks about.
In June of this year, the Hermes Binner government notified Cargill of a debt of 570,000 pesos and did not rule out liens. The Undersecretary of Public Revenues of Santa Fe, Teresa Beren, was at the plant of the multinational in Puerto General San Martín to notify the debt for real estate for having 140 thousand square meters in undeclared buildings.
It was in relation to the so-called "port operation", which pursues the objective of detecting those companies that evade provincial taxes, the government made a survey that revealed the existence of 800,000 square meters without declaring in the entire Gran Rosario complex.
The information included an analysis of the official who said that “the company paid 13 thousand pesos per year in property taxes, and there were many meters that were not declared before the province. We have informed Customs and AFIP that they were incorrectly registered in the 24 Argentine provinces, because they declared themselves exempt from these provinces in the withholding and collection regimes ”.
On July 9 last, through a request in the country's main media, Cargill denounced the "incessant and discriminatory media show" that involves it as a result of the embargo placed by the provincial treasury in claiming that debt of 570 thousand pesos for property tax.
The multinational complained of "the reiteration of official comments on supposed millionaires noncompliance" in the payment of taxes. "It is surprising that a regular tax inspection by the API has become an incessant and discriminatory media show," Cargill points out in the request, and adds: "Worse than that is that amounts that do not correspond are claimed for property tax or that they were already paid before the inspections and embargoes suffered ".
The American giant assures, after reviewing its investments and what it pays in taxes in Santa Fe, that "public opinion is confused by saying that these amounts have already been paid, when in reality the company suffered untimely and unnecessary embargoes." In that sense, he explained that "facing them in order to continue operating is not consenting to what is claimed."
One of those who came out to support the company was the mayor of Puerto General San Martín, Carlos De Grandis, when he said that the multinational had reported on the expansion of works.
De Grandis should also explain why he let Cargill carry the cross that recalls the epic of the battle of Punta Quebracho, on June 4, 1846, where dozens and dozens of gaucho families faced an English fleet at the point of spears and stones. That symbol is part of a national historical monument that was not respected in the least by the cereal factory located in that cosmic waist that the Paraná River draws in the lands of Puerto San Martín.
But beyond those requested and complicities, the numbers of the last known balance of Cargill place its sales during 2008 in the amount of 19,700 million pesos annually, almost 55 million pesos a day, more than two million per hour and 38 thousand pesos every sixty seconds. Cargill is the number four firm in the ranking of the thousand companies that sell the most in Argentina.
What will the Hermes Binner government do now?
Will you insist or resign your initiative?
The city of San Lorenzo today looks like the backyard of the monumental works built by Molinos Río de la Plata.
The company, several times denounced for environmental contamination by residents of various neighborhoods of the historic city, continues to grow in size and turnover.
According to its privileged position 14 among the thousand that sell the most, Molinos had a turnover of more than eight billion pesos during 2008. At a rate of 15,447 pesos every sixty seconds.
For now, the councilors of San Lorenzo did not give permission for the expansion that the cereal company intends given the decided position assumed by the neighbors.
But after the June election results, the firm is likely to continue to expand its territory to the detriment of the quality of life of the locals and supported by such sales volume.
The Bajo Alumbrera Mine exports its production through the Terminal 6 docks, also in Puerto General San Martín.
Nobody knows what it takes. And nothing is left in the southern city of Santa Fe, nor in the regional customs.
What is known is what it bills.
Located in position 25 among the thousand companies that sell the most in Argentina, the mining company sold for 5,750 million pesos during 2008.
The not inconsiderable sum of 11,034 pesos every sixty seconds.
Hence, it is necessary to remember the dimension of the looting: “While the oil companies have 70% of the foreign exchange coming from exports, the mining companies can leave out 100% of them. The decrees of the P.E.N. Nº 417/03 -signed by E. Duhalde- and 753/04 -with the signature of Néstor Kirchner, Alberto Fernández and Roberto Lavagna- thus establish it. An engineer from Minera Alumbrera declared in a television program: '100% of the production, which is 700,000 tons per year, 104 tons per hour, is exported from its own port in the town of Puerto Gral. San Martín, north of Rosario . In other words, the entire production of 700,000 tons of copper and gold is exported to foreign markets, Brazil, the United States, Europe and Oceania. ' What is not talked about is the value of this wealth: how much does it represent today's values? The S.M.N. estimates that Minera Alumbrera ‘expects to produce 195,000 tons. of copper and 700,000 ounces of gold during 2003… ’. If we take these figures and make an estimate of the price of the London Stock Exchange today -18 / 4 / 07- 195,000 tons of copper at US $ 7,830 per ton. would give US $ 1,526,850,000 and the 700,000 ounces of gold at US $ 788.50 would be US $ 481,950,000. That is to say: a total of more than 2,000 million dollars annually, not counting the dozens of other metals that accompany gold and copper and for which they do not declare or pay ”. (Excerpt from the article "The dispossession of Argentine metals", by Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas (MORENO), published in ARGENPRESS July 27, 2007).
The company based in General Alvear had a turnover of 5,230 million pesos during 2008. It was ranked 28th among the thousand that sold the most in the country. In other words, it billed at a rate of more than ten thousand pesos every sixty seconds.
Why, then, did you receive aid from the national state with ANSES funds?
In June of this year, the President of the Nation, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, came to announce a direct loan with funds from ANSES of between two hundred and three hundred million pesos to complement the 500 million that the multinational of North American origin needs to develop its new car model, the BIBA, although it does not yet have a trademark.
That same week the US state announced the nationalization of the company.
In such a way it became ridiculous that Argentine workers and retirees are subsidizing the treasury of the empire.
Does the US state and the General Alvear plant, which billed more than ten thousand pesos per minute, need the money of the Argentine workers and retirees?
The argument was that employment sources were guaranteed. Something strange because at the beginning of the year the Ministry of Labor of the Nation itself, together with the SMATA union and the management of the company had signed a commitment to social peace for more than a year that guaranteed the non-dismissal of employees.
The company is based not only in the south of Santa Fe, but also in the heart of the stricken General Obligado department, the roof of the province.
In that region where the footprints of La Forestal are still visible, Vicentín had a turnover of 4.9 billion pesos annually.
Nothing less than almost nine thousand five hundred pesos per minute.
Such a sales figure placed it in 29th place among the thousand with the highest turnover in Argentina.
Every year, Vicentín generates some type of conflict that leaves workers on the streets in the Reconquista area, the main city of the General Obligado department.
It is the other part, the less visible face of such a volume of money.
At the end of the 1990s, a report from the Peace and Justice Service of the Archdiocese of Reconquista stated: “Parents without work live in anguish. They showed a state of nervousness and little appreciation for themselves, creating more often situations of violence in their families. Young people do not find work opportunities, they cannot study; Many of them at an early age, are frequently engaged in theft, a product of the hopelessness in which their families find themselves. Adolescents prostitute themselves, children go to school with learning difficulties due to the lack of adequate food and the lack of support in school work from their families, since many of their parents did not complete the primary basic cycle. In recent years there has been a large percentage of migration to cities in search of a better quality of life, it was found that many families built their precarious homes on public streets and / or municipal vacant lots, further aggravating the problem of housing ”, indicated that document.
Vicentín, meanwhile, is growing in sales volume and, in parallel, does not produce any type of development that responds to the famous social responsibility of entrepreneurship.
The history of Villa Constitución is also the history of Acindar.
The company founded by Arturo Acevedo at the end of the 1940s in the city of Rosario ended up being a true economic, political, social and cultural power beyond the city of Constitución department.
In the second half of this year, the leaders of the Metallurgical Workers' Union are concerned about the series of labor and salary conflicts that the so-called outsourced companies that depend on the steelworks have as their first stage.
The latest fatal workplace accidents show the level of job insecurity that exists in the plant.
But beyond these notes from recent history, today Acindar depends on the Arcelor Mittal group of Brazil, which owns 100 percent of its capital. In 2008, it exported 139 million dollars.
According to the numbers published by the magazine “Mercado”, Acindar had a turnover of 3,935 million pesos.
More than 7,500 pesos every sixty seconds.
A phenomenal economic power that, however, does not make many efforts to take care of the lives of its workers.
Coherence with the postulates developed during the management that José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz developed between 1973 and 1976, when he paid up to two hundred dollars to each of the four thousand members of the federal police and other forces that took over the working-class city on March 20, 1975. Those who turned the Acindar singles hostel into the first clandestine detention center for people in the country. A year later, Martínez de Hoz was appointed Minister of Economy of the bloodiest dictatorship in Argentine history.
Small dairy producers receive 75 cents per liter of milk.
Something that has nothing to do with the level of turnover of the main companies in the sector.
On September 17, 1938, the Sancor cooperative was established in the town of Sunchales, Castellanos department, almost on the border with the province of Córdoba. Two years later the first industry began to function. The official story of the company tells that “at that time there were already a good number of drum cooperatives, scattered in a vast region that included several provinces. The satisfactory results of SanCor induced many of them to join the founding group, while others also emerged, responding to the decision of dairy farmers eager to join the new "cooperative of cooperatives." Thus, in a few years, SanCor reached a rapid development and expanded throughout what is now called the central Argentine dairy basin. Other industrial activities continued to be added to the primitive production of butter, a foundation of national and international prestige, which consolidated the company of milk producers and gave it the leadership of the country's dairy. The fluid interaction between industrial activities and primary production also contributed to this, which allowed dairy farms and associated cooperatives to accompany the evolution of the common enterprise with quantitative and qualitative growth ”.
Sixty years later, the results of that original cooperative define it today as a price-setting and dairy market regulator company.
Sancor is located in position 70 among the main thousand that sell the most in the country, with a turnover of 2,104 million pesos during 2008.
More than four thousand pesos per minute.
A figure that is not related to what dairy farmers earn or what workers in the industry receive.
Glyphosate remains unpunished not only in the province of Santa Fe but throughout the country.
The multinational had a turnover of 1,800 million pesos last year, ranking 87th among the first thousand companies that sold the most in Argentina.
That is, almost three thousand five hundred pesos every sixty seconds.
Monsanto does not seem to care about the reality of the flag boys of Las Petacas, in the San Martín department, west of the province.
Las Petacas is called the exact setting of the central west area of the second Argentine state where the kids are used as signals to fumigate.
Guys who will be sprayed with pesticides while working as poles, as human flags, and then replaced by other nobodies.
First, they begin to spray on the corners, which is called a corner.
Then, you have to count 24 steps to the side from the last place where the mosquito passed, from the middle point of the machine and stop there, says one of the kids between fourteen and sixteen years of age. The mosquito is a low-flying machine that spreads a cloud of pesticide.
In order for the driver to know where he has to spray, the agricultural producers in the area found an economical solution: boys under the age of 16 stand with a flag at the place to spray. They spray them with Randap, sometimes 2-4 D. They throw insecticides and kill weeds. They have a very strong smell. Sometimes we also help to load the tank. When there is a headwind it gives us the cloud and it gets our whole face wet, describes the signal child, the kid who will be contaminated, the number that hardly anyone will take into account for a modest investment budget in the north of Santa Fe.
There is not protection of any kind. And when they signal the field for the mosquito to pass, they charge between twenty and twenty-five cents per hectare and fifty cents when the pesticide spreads from a slower tractor, says one of the boys.
With the mosquito they make 100 or 150 hectares per day. You work with two banderilleros, one for the going and one for the return. We work from sunrise to sunset. Sometimes they feed us there and sometimes they bring us home, it depends on the producer, add the interviewees.
One of the boys says that he knows that those liquids can hurt him: "That we have cancer, he exemplifies. We have been working on this for three or four years. In hot times you have to put up with the sun's rays and on top of that the smell of that liquid bursts your head. Sometimes a headache seizes me in the middle of the field. I always wear a T-shirt with a high neck to cover my face and head, say the voices of the poisoned kids.
"Two producers are looking for us. Each one has its own people, but some don't because they use satellite flaggers. We take a break at noon and walk 200 hectares a day. We don't get too tired because we're used to it. My head ached and everything was shaking. I went to the doctor and he told me it was because of the work he did, that he was sick because of that, the children remarked.
The father of the kids can no longer accompany his children. No longer supports the swelling of the stomach, he told. We have no other choice. We need to do any work, says the father when he tries to explain why his children are exposed to such murder in stages. The Agrupación de Vecinos Autoconvocados de Las Petacas and the Foundation for the Defense of the Environment (Funam) had summoned the communal president Miguel Ángel Battistelli to develop a program for the eradication of polluting activities related to farms and the use of agrochemicals. There was no progress.
Monsanto continues to sell glyphosate and invoice thousands of pesos per minute.
Carlos del Frade - South Santa Fe Project - Argentina