Argentine Ambassador to the United States Martin Lousteau resigned from his post on Tuesday amid an ongoing scandal over the South American country’s mass acquisition of weapons from the U.S. government, even as the right-wing government pushes austerity at domestically.
Last week, local outlet El Destape revealed that Argentine President Mauricio Macri planned to spend US$2 billion in large military equipment from the U.S., making it the largest weapons acquisition since the country's Malvinas War in the 1980s.
The list of military supplies requested includes fighter jets, war tanks, medium and long-range missiles and helicopters, which together make up almost half of the 2016 budget for the Ministry of Defense.
The Argentine government ordered the equipment from the U.S. through Lousteau, who has close connections to Washington D.C.’s military-industrial complex. The government justified the deal by claiming the arsenal would help Argentina “fight terrorism.”
Since news of the arms deal surfaced, Macri’s administration has come under fire from thousands of protesters who oppose cuts to social programs and the rising expenditure on defense.
In an effort to save face, Macri’s cabinet chief Marcos Peña blamed the deal on Lousteau, telling him in a telegram that “we’d prefer for you not to be with us anymore,” Clarin reports. Lousteau immediately submitted a letter of resignation, providing no details of the scandal.
“They (the Argentine government) have to come to us and give explanations,” Argentine opposition activist Rodolfo Tailhade told HispanTV.
“They have to explain why these deals are being made to purchase so many arms when they haven’t been questioned for debate or decision.”
Lousteau’s resignation comes weeks before Macri is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. Both right-wing leaders are expected to discuss military cooperation and arms deals when they meet on April 27.
Argentine Minister of Economy Alfonso Prat-Gay is interested in taking Lousteau’s post before the visit. Prat-Gay, however, has come under fire for his participation in the administration of former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla’s military government.
Prat-Gay was the director of the Central Bank of Argentina from 1976 to 1981, one of the country’s darkest eras. Macri appointed him to his current position in 2015, ushering in neoliberal austerity.