Controversial PRO official faced strong resistance from human rights groups, actors union
In the face of mounting criticism, Dario Lopérfido submitted his resignation as Buenos Aires City’s Culture minister yesterday, caving into pressure from human rights groups — who have repeatedly called for him to be sacked over controversial statements he made about victims of the last military dictatorship — and unhappy actors’ unions.
His resignation appeared to be the result of a longstanding protest campaign dating back to January, with the City official practically unable to attend any public event — whether it be the Bafici film festival, the Colón Theatre, or an exhibit at the ArteBa art fair — without being met by angry protesters.
But events took a turn for the worse in the last few weeks, after Lopérfido aggressively responded to his public critics, making further polemic statements that added fuel to the fire.
The now former Culture minister responded to his detractors with insults, calling them “Stalinists” and “fascists.” Recently, he publicly rebuked actors and producers that were calling for his removal, claiming they were doing so because they were sympathetic to the Victory Front (FpV) party and accusing them of participating in fraud.
“It was the largest case of fraud in the history of local TV … the government purchased the support of all the Kirchnerite fanatics because the same people would always act in government-funded productions… fans of Kirchnerism, who are now requesting my resignation,” Lopérfido said.
The latest outrage occurred prior to his resignation that took place in the Theatre Complex of Buenos Aires, as he attended an event with Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Deputy Mayor Diego Santilli and the Director of Buenos Aires City Theatres Jorge Telerman. A group of protesters interrupted the event calling for his resignation and Lopérfido responded dismissively.
“Speak of art, of theatre, movies, culture: stop speaking about politics. Politics is very complicated,” he said.
On June 14, a roundtable of culture and human rights leaders was organized to coordinate actions toward the PRO party demanding for Lopérfido’s removal. Former Supreme Court justice Eugenio Zaffaroni, human rights lawyer Pablo Llonto, musician Víctor Heredia and other rights figures and public figures participated in the discussion.
Earlier this week, over rumours that he had already resigned from his position, Lopérfido continued to deny this wasn’t the case until the very last moment.
“It’s false. It was an operation on Twitter and it’s not true. I didn’t resign. I’m working normally,” he told the news portal of Ámbito Financiero yesterday morning.
However, by the afternoon it was officially announced that Larreta had “accepted” his resignation.
“Lopérfido submitted his resignation shortly after 2pm to (BA City’s) Cabinet Chief Felipe Miguel,” the City government said in a press release. Larreta later told reporters that he had agreed with Lóperfido that it would be better for him to concentrate his efforts in directing the Arts programme in the theatre.
“I’m going to resign the ministry and stay in the Colón,” he said. The PRO official had been criticized for holding on to both positions when he was first appointed.
The City has held few cultural events in the past six months, although the Colón Theatre had enjoyed a busy schedule.
Lóperfido had been appointed to direct the prestigious theatre in 2015 by former mayor Mauricio Macri before he was elected president.
The statements that sparked the protest were made last January 25, in the presentation of the book Cerrar La Grieta (Closing the divide), where Lopérfido claimed: “In Argentina there weren’t 30,000 disappearances, they (human rights groups) fixed that number in private in order to get subsidies.”
During the same presentation, Lopérfido also played down the crimes against humanity committed by the last military dictatorship (1976-1983), stressing that Argentina had a violent history but not less violent than other countries.
“If the military dictatorship made an enormous error, an enormous one, it was to not make them (the victims) disappear and be killed using a legal process,” ignoring the fact that the dictatorship assumed power illegally, violating the Constitution.
For months, Larreta had refused to fire Lopérfido — a former official during the 1999-2001 administration of conservative president Fernando de la Rúa — despite repeated requests from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Founders Line) and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo for his removal. Larreta and federal Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj maintained that they didn’t share Lopérfido’s views about the victims of the dictatorship.
His outspoken claims about “fanatic” actors participating in fraud did not seem to help either and put him at odds with the powerful actors union.
Cecilia Roth, Rita Cortese, Cristina Banegas, Norman Briski, Mirta Busnelli, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Luisa Kuliok and Verónica Llinás were some of the film, theatre and television actors and actresses who were calling for Lopérfido to abandon his post.
The former Culture minister is leaving his post three days before the Buenos Aires City and national governments celebrate the 200th anniversary of Argentina’s declaration of independence.
The BA City administration anticipated they would announce a new Culture minister within the next few days.
Herald with online media