Nelson Fuentes has resigned as Minister of Finances.
Nelson Fuentes’ departure comes at a time when the government of Nayib Bukele tries to reduce criticism for the use of public funds to buy food in Mexico and, in turn, get more financing to face the loss of income due to quarantine.
In his place, Alejandro Zelaya, who served as Deputy Minister of Income, took office. According to an investigation by El Diario de Hoy, he is the director of SCI Audit Tax Advisory, a company where Rogelio Cabrera and Jorge Alberto Vásquez hold high ranks. Cabrera and Vásquez founded SYGM Asesores, S. A. de C. V. 7 months before selling masks to the Government for $750,000.
Minutes before Fuentes’s resignation was known, the Government swore in Gustavo Villatoro, former director-general of Customs, as superintendent of the Financial System (SSF) who will have a direct engagement with the country’s main banks and is an intermediary with the Ministry of Finances to implement financial instruments such as Treasury Bills (Letes) or Treasury Certificates (Cetes).
People close to Fuentes confirmed that he decided to leave the institution pressured by financial decisions that he did not share.
“I believe that the finance minister could no longer bear the series of illegalities and arbitrariness that were being committed, pretending to defend unjustifiable funds’ decisions” said Norman Quijano, deputy for ARENA.
Last May, Fuentes’s position was in suspense after it was learned that he refused to withhold the salary of Congresspeople, as directly requested by President Bukele.
Fuentes’s resignation also occurs a day after he arrived at the Finance Commission of the Legislative Assembly instead of the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), Pablo Anliker, who for the second time avoided attending to explain the use of more than $23 million for the purchase of basic grains in Sinaloa, Mexico and for which he took $7 million from the wage bill, which is qualified as an illegal transfer.
Nidia Diaz (FMLN) said that she would hope that the new minister will not make the situation of accountability more complicated.
The president of the Assembly, Mario Ponce, said that he will expect the new minister to have the same high degree of tolerance as Fuentes did. “Managing the state’s finances is not easy,” he assured.
Budget 2021 on the way
The new Minister of Finance arrives in a key moment for the country since the deadline to present the draft budget 2021 is in one month. This time it will include a significant fiscal deficit as a result of the ordinary financing that has been used for the pandemic .
The significant level of debt will also require more negotiations with the legislature and with the banks for cash flow.
Villatoro said: “These are new challenges and we have to work to integrate the different government institutions a little more with the Ministry of Finance. There are a couple of issues, such as an excess of bureaucracy in some procedures (…) the same line of debureaucratization that was brought from Customs will be brought to the Superintendency to boost the economy, moreover after this COVID crisis that will leave us a little beaten, but that is the point (…) putting a touch of modernity and responding to the new times”.