BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – (AP) — Bothered by a Greek reporter’s repeated requests to release Argentina’s true inflation rate, Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino interrupted an interview, saying the issue is too “complex” to explore and telling an aide “I want to leave.”
A video of the interview surfaced Tuesday and quickly became the talk of Argentine social networks. On Twitter, the hashtag (hash)mequieroir ((hash)iwanttoleave) was constantly retweeted, and the video of the visibly uncomfortable minister played repeatedly on Argentine television news stations that aren’t aligned with the government. Someone even put his voice to a cumbia beat, mashed it up with the Peronist March and posted the music video on YouTube.
Lorenzino didn’t respond to the display of dark Argentine humour at his expense. His press office told The Associated Press that the ministry had no reaction, and his Twitter account was quiet.
Lorenzino granted the interview in his ministry headquarters to Eleni Varvitsiotis late last year, but the Greek channel Skai TV didn’t broadcast it until Tuesday, as part of a documentary comparing Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis to the situation in Greece.
Private economic analysts have said Argentina’s consumer prices rose about 26 per cent in 2012, more than twice the 10.8 per cent published by the government’s inflation index, whose accuracy has been publicly rejected by the International Monetary Foundation.
“I have a very simple question for you, which seems very complicated these days: How much is Argentine inflation at this moment?” she asked.
“Official statistics show month after month the inflation and this is the only inflation possible,” the minister responded in Spanish.
“But, how much is it?” she insisted.
Increasingly uncomfortable, Lorenzino said “I think the cumulative inflation over the last 12 months is 10.2 per cent; I might be off by a decimal.”
The journalist then noted that the IMF has warned that it will impose sanctions against Argentina for putting out false statistics. “What will you do about that?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know. Can we turn off the camera a moment? I want to leave,” Lorenzino said.
The rest of the encounter was captured on audio. Lorenzino can be heard telling the reporter, “Talking about inflation statistics in Argentina is complex. … I’d rather leave it with the last thing I said and not go on about it.”
Lorenzino then leaves, and an aide can be heard telling the reporter: “We never speak about inflation, not even with the Argentine media.”
But “price increases are the main topic of the economy now,” she protests. “Everyone in the street is saying there’s high inflation. It’s not possible that I not ask about it. If not, I’m not doing my job.”