Fall-out from the latest scandal to rock Argentina’s political landscape continued on Monday, as José Alperovich requested a leave of absence from the Senate.
The Tucumán lawmaker made the request in the the wake of sexual abuse allegations made against him by a member of his extended family.
Days earlier, Alperovich had vehemently denied the claims via his Twitter account. On Monday, the senator held his ground in a scathing letter presented to the chamber's head, Vice-President Gabriela Michetti, in which he requested a leave of absence and said he would use the time to “repair his ho nor.”
“In the last few days, as is well known by the public, I have been a victim of threats against me. The accusation is absolutely false, which I will demonstrate, in the short term or the long term, before the court,” the letter began.
“After dedicating my time and effort to dispelling this infamy, I will declare the truth and reclaim my honour. I ask you that you confer me a leave of absence in my honourable duties,” the former Tucumán governor wrote.
The relative made her initial claims on Friday in an an explosive letter accompanied by the hashtag ‘#NoNosCallamosMás’. In it, the woman – who worked for Alperovich’s campaign as a personal assistant – detailed 18 months of alleged abuse.
She said the events that took place either at Alperovich’s Puerto Madero apartment in Buenos Aires and back home in Tucumán at his campaign headquarters.
“I’m not writing to convince anybody of anything,” she wrote. “I’m here against the oppression of silence and the need to recover my life ... by giving the monster a name and surname. Mine is called José Jorge Alperovich by whom I was raped sexually, physically and psychologically between December, 2017, and May, 2019.”
As a result both her family and working life became a nightmare, the letter's author continued. She expressed reluctance to enter into details of the abuse beyond saying that she was kissed, fondled and penetrated against her will, but she implied that the senator had a distinct preference for anal intercourse, in order to avoid the risk of pregnancy.
“I was completely trapped ... never in my life have I cried so much,” continued the letter, adding that in all that period she was unable to take a holiday and only felt free from her “nightmare” when the senator travelled.
“It always happened with his [armed] bodyguards just outside [the room], so she felt that she could not even scream,” her lawyer Ricardo Santoro told reporters on Friday.
Because the abuses allegedly took place in Buenos Aires and in Tucumán, criminal complaints have been lodged in both jurisdictions. On Monday, the accuser delivered testimony in Tucumán, in the office of prosecutor María del Carmen Reuter, Perfil reported.
“Today, she came to declare and ratify the sexual abuse complaint against the senator. It took place in the Tucumán District Attorney’s Office with the team that focuses on sexual crimes. We’re still waiting on testimony in Buenos Aires,” said Milagro Mariona, a journalist from the province who is acting as the plaintiff’s spokeswoman.
An official complaint was also filed with the Specialised Prosecutor Unit for Violence Against Women, directed by Mariela Labozzetta in Buenos Aires.
Alperovich’s relative has requested her identity remain private throughout this process. Santoros and Mariona have been deployed to speak on her behalf.
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“She is very shaken by what she had to do today, to relive what she’s already survived," said Mariona in comments to Radio Con Vos on Monday. "But it was powerful. She asked me to communicate that the worst for her is behind her. She’s calm because she knows that this path she’s begun is in the search for restorative justice and healing for her."
The woman has also requested police protection and a restraining order against the accused, as well as a ban on Alperovich leaving the country.
According to the accuser, the abuse only ended six months ago and she alleged she suffered physical injuries (which have been “duly documented” according to Santoro) and psychological damage that caused her to lose around 12 kilogrammes in weight.
For his part, Alperovich continues to deny all charges. In his letter requesting a leave of absence, he claimed that his accuser had “falsely represented herself as a victim” and that he had “previously” lodged a “complaint” against her.