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ARGENTINA | 18-08-2018 08:48

Aug 13th-19th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened in the last seven days?


The Senate failed to obtain a quorum last Wednesday to approve Judge Claudio Bonadio’s search warrant against Senator and ex-president Cristina Kirchner in the context of the recent graft scandal. Only half of the 72-seat Upper House showed up. The nine senators of Kirchner’s Victory Front caucus all shunned proceedings, as did two-thirds of other Peronists. Federal Peronist majority leader Miguel Angel Pichetto (Río Negro) said he saw no reason for Senator Kirchner’s arrest ahead of a sentence or a raid of her Senate office, also implying that there was little chance of finding anything because never had a search been announced so far in advance.


The so-called “Triple Escape” case began this week at Criminal Court 1 in the city of La Plata, Buenos Aires province. The case centres around the New Year’s Eve escape from General Alvear Prison of the brothers Martín and Cristian Lanatta, and Víctor Schillaci. It was the first big news splash of 2016. Eventually recaptured after nearly three weeks on the run, they had been previously sentenced for the 2008 triple murder of General Rodríguez when three suspected ephedrinetraffickers allegedly linked to the financing of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s 2007 presidential campaign were gunned down. The trio will face four trials in total.


Security Minister Patricia Bullrich last Monday paid a visit to the home of Luis Chocobar, the Buenos Aires provincial policeman facing trial for slaying with two shots in the back a fleeing criminal who had stabbed a US tourist in the Boca neighbourhood last December. “We have come to ratify our commitment, to tell him he’s not alone,” said Bullrich, “they should stop making the police the culprits when they are defending the people.” The minister was accompanied on the visit by her Cabinet Chief Gerardo Milman and Senator Gladys González. Bullrich’s support has infuriated rights activists in a country with a chronic police brutality phenomena.


In a sign of the speed at which Argentina’s judiciary operates, the long-forgotten “money in the bag” case resurfaced on Thursday. Former Planning Minister Julio de Vido, his former private secretary José María Olazagasti, former AFIP tax bureau chief Ricardo Echegaray, and current ENARSA control agency boss Exequiel Espinosa were summoned to testify over their alleged connection to a bag from Venezuela containing US$800,000 which customs authorities seized at Ezeiza airport in 2007.


Argentina’s Magistrates Council overwhelmingly rejected charges against Federal Judge Ariel Lijo on Thursday but his controversial colleague Luis Arias was not so lucky, bounced by a 9-2 Buenos Aires Judicial Impeachment Jury vote the previous day with 20 accusations against him. The charges against Lijo centred on undeclared stables near Dolores but these eventually turned out to belong to Lijo’s brother Alfredo. Arias had a long track record of ruling against the decisions of Buenos Aires governor María Eugenia Vidal, especially her Labour Ministry. Previously, he had challenged the Daniel Scioli administration’s official figures for 2013 flood deaths in La Plata although he also acquitted Scioli of embezzlement.


Five days after the Senate voted against decriminalising elective abortion, a 27-year-old woman on Monday died in Pilar, Buenos Aires, from complications related to an illegal abortion. It is the second similar death in the district in less than a week, after a 34-year-old mother of two died from severe infections following the use of stem of parsley to abort.


With a graft scandal shaking Argentina’s political and business worlds, some local government authorities are seeking to rid themselves of references to former president Néstor Kirchner. The City Council of San Rafael in Mendoza resolved on Wednesday to remove the name of “Néstor Carlos Kirchner” from the local bus terminal, in place since the ex-president’s death in 2010. Kirchnerite Mayor Emir Félix might yet veto the initiative. Rosario will also be removing Kirchner’s name from a monument, with authorities there describing him as “a prime figure in the most corrupt government in Argentine history.” The Greater Buenos Aires district of Morón has withdrawn a bust of Kirchner in recent days while the National Assembly in distant Ecuador voted 72-30 to remove the huge statue in front of Unasur headquarters. A petition with 8,000 signatures is seeking to restore the original name of the Centro Cultural Kirchner to “Bicentennial”.


Matias Messi, brother of Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi, was sentenced for illegally possessing a firearm, the Associated Press reported. Messi received a twoand-a-half-year prison sentence on Thursday but will not go to jail. He was instead ordered to perform community service. The weapon was found late last year inside a blood-stained boat which Messi crashed in the ParanáRiver. The 35-year-old Messi was held under preventive arrest and later released.

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