President Alberto Fernández has called on Argentina’s Judiciary to "investigate without delay" allegations of alleged espionage during the government of his predecessor Mauricio Macri, amid controversy over statements in which a former official said he would like "a Gestapo to put an end" to trade unions.
" Federal Justice is investigating a complaint that I have ordered the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) to make to investigate actions of the previous government that promoted illegal espionage and various judicial persecution against trade unionists and opponents," the president said Tuesday in a post on Twitter.
The claims relate to a leaked video from June 2017, in which Marcelo Villegas, ex-labour minister in former Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal’s government, can be observed affirming to businessmen: "If I could have a Gestapo, a shock force to finish off all the trade unions, I’d go ahead."
In the meeting, he invited the group listening to him – a construction businessmen, the mayor of La Plata, other ex-officials and AFI agents – to bring legal cases against the trade unionists, according to the recording.
The words were pronounced at a meeting at the Bapro provincial bank in La Plata and the videos recording the encounter form part of the denunciation presented by the AFI before Federal Criminal and Correctional Court No. 3 in La Plata, a court under judge Ernesto Kreplak. The justice system is now examining whether there was a plot to build legal cases against trade unionists and opponents. Raids on La Plata City Hall took place last week.
After the release of the video, Villegas offered “sincere apologies for having clumsily used absolutely the wrong word, which is also far removed from my way of feeling, thinking and acting.”
Villegas also questioned the content of the leaked images: “I deplore that even in a full democracy this kind of illegal wire-tapping is used which can also be doctored.”
President Fernández said Tuesday the “serious” developments should be fully investigated.
"Given the seriousness of the facts and the existence of serious, precise and consistent evidence of an alleged illegal method of persecution, the justice system must investigate without delay and determine the different responsibilities of the perpetrators and accomplices in these events," the president urged in posts on social media.
Fernández also recalled that when he took office in December 2019 he had denounced "the existence of more than 100 encrypted mobile phones provided by the AFI that included national officials, but also people from the justice system and political and business partners of Cambiemos," a reference to Macri’s coalition that took him into government.