María Julia Alsogaray

María Julia Alsogaray

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María Julia Alsogaray (born October 8, 1942) is an Argentine politician convicted for financial crimes against the state.[1]

Life and times

The daughter of conservative politician Álvaro Alsogaray, she was born in Buenos Aires and became an engineer. She was elected to Congress in 1985 on her father's ticket, the Union of the Democratic Centre (UCeDé), and became an outspoken defender of free markets during the presidency of Raúl Alfonsín.

The UCeDé became a close ally of Justicialist Party nominee Carlos Menem after the 1989 election (in which Menem ran as a populist), and Alsogaray was put in charge of the privatization of the ENTel state phone company in 1990, and the Somisa state steel works in 1991. The latter post garnered Alsogaray disapproval when Somisa was sold to Techint in 1992 for US$152 million - one seventh the book value Jorge Triaca, her predecessor at Somisa, had estimated.[2]

Her personal life also attracted controversy following a July 1990 photo shoot for Noticias, Argentina's leading newsmagazine. The suggestive photo spread was accompanied by an interview in which her relationship with the recently divorced President Menem was discussed.[3] Alsogaray was appointed Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources in November 1991,[4] something she attributed in a Clarín interview at the time to the "trust the President has deposited in me." [5]

Alsogaray's tenure at Environment Secretariat, which was elevated to a cabinet level post by the President, was marked by a number of scandals of a policy nature, notably in regard to her handling of a serious, 1996 forest fire in the vicinity of Nahuel Huapi National Park, a 1999 flood in the humid northeast region, and, particularly, of a 1993 plan to decontaminate the Riachuelo (a heavily polluted waterway along Buenos Aires' industrial southside).[6]

Alsogaray obtained a US$250 million loan from the IADB for the purpose; of this, however, US$150 million were destined to unrelated social projects, six million were lost in IADB fines, US$90 million remained unallocated, and only one million was used for the actual cleanup[7] (The Riachuelo's condition did not improve under subsequent administrations).[8] Her own position within the right-wing UCeDé, at the helm of which she succeeded her father in 1994, became jeopardized by a rivalry with the party's second-ranking figure, National Mortagge Bank Director Adelina D'Alessio de Viola.[9]

Upon stepping down when President Menem left office in 1999, financial transactions in her name totaling over US$200 million came under scrutiny, and Alsogaray was ultimately convicted of misappropriation of public funds in 2004.[10] Following a number of appeals and pursuant to her conviction, her Recoleta neighborhood townhouse was auctioned by a federal court in 2009.[11]


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