Argentina’s intelligence services spied on the relatives of the late 44 crew-members who perished in the ARA San Juan submarine disaster during the Mauricio Macri administration's time in office, the government has alleged.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Defence Minister Agustín Rossi and AFI intelligence trustee Cristina Caamaño said that the families had been subject to illegal espionage during the Mauricio Macri administration, as the hunt for the missing relatives was underway. Their accusations extended beyond the previous AFI helm of Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani to the former president himself.
The story quickly moved beyond the local arena to receive coverage abroad from The New York Times and El País in Madrid, among other international news outlets.
Caamaño chided Macri for the snooping, saying that it was the state’s task “to give answers [to the tragedy], not spy on the families,” while Rossi said that the relatives had told him that they “did not feel surprised” by the discovery of photos and documents proving the surveillance.
The files were uncovered by staff at the AFI federal intelligence agency, which is under Caamaño’s leadership. She has been tasked with overhauling the agency by President Alberto Fernández.
Asked what motives the Macri administration could have had for the espionage, Caamaño said that the question of why they tracked such a “vulnerable” group should be put to them. She suggested, however, that the extremely delicate nature of the ARA San Juan tragedy and the desire to know in advance what the families would be asking officials for could be the reason.
Both Rossi and Caamaño underlined that no court had requested the surveillance.
The ARA San Juan submarine disappeared in the South Atlantic in November, 2017, and was found on the first anniversary of the tragedy. The exact causes of the disaster have yet to be ascertained – the only certainty is that all the lives of its 44-strong crew were lost.
In related espionage news, Dolores federal judge Alejo Ramos Padilla opened up a new front in the investigation of the Macri presidency’s use of AFI this week when he summoned Arribas and Majdalani on charges of illegal espionage in Greater Buenos Aires, in the year preceding the 2017 midterm elections (held the month before the submarine’s disappearance).
Arribas is set to be grilled next Tuesday and Majdalani the following day.