Thursday, August 06, 2009

Argentina's Newest Financial Firecracker is American Ambassador

President Barack Obama nominated Vilma Martinez, a respected civil rights leader, as ambassador to Argentina. A quick review of her background revealed her heavy hitter financial credentials. Ms. Martinez sat on the board of numerous companies. Below is her latest annual board compensation from three firms:

Burlington Northern Santa Fe--$267,577
Anheuser Busch--$202,166
They total nearly $700,000 in annual board pay. What about her stock holdings in those same firms?

Anheuser Busch sold out to InBev, netting Vilma $2.9 million. Her holdings in Fluor and Burlington Northern amount to over $3 million. Due to her political appointment, Mrs. Martinez may need to sell her holdings. She'll get a capital gains tax deferral, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Hank Paulson benefited from this rule as George W. Bush's Secretary of Treasury. White House Health Czar Nancy-Ann DeParle did likewise from selling her vast holdings in a variety of for-profit health care firms. The latest beneficiary will head HHS's IT. He'll get a deferral on his $45 million in stock holdings.

It's interesting to see the more things change, the more they stay the same. On the bright side, Vilma's stepping down from the Fluor Board opened a slot for Nader Sultan, Carlyle Group's Middle East-North Africa Senior Adviser. Carlyle's David Rubenstein predicts big rises in oil prices, as high as $200 a barrel oil in a few years.

America's elite contributes to the two political franchises. In turn they get czar posts and ambassadorships, complete with capital gains tax deferments. They can game the system to benefit fellow Corporatists. It's a disturbing pattern, one perpetuated by a branded change agent.

The question is how will Vilma Martinez's corporate credentials manifest in Argentina? Some believe the American Business Mafia acted badly in Central America, with a Chiquita Banana-CIA redux. This time it was in Honduras (2009), not Guatemala (1954) or Chile (1973). Note: In 2007 Chiquita Banana paid a $25 million fine for sponsoring terrorists in Colombia. No Chiquita execs ended up in a stockade next to Jose Padilla.

As for Argentina, stay tuned! Don't cry for me...

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