Saturday, November 28, 2020

ARGENTINA | 02-12-2017 11:29

What we learned this week: senators, Sala, ESMA and Rafael Nahuel

Key stories from the last seven days.


The longest human rights trial in Argentine history delivered an epic verdict taking over four hours to read last Wednesday, sentencing 29 exofficers to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

It was the third trial of atrocities committed at the ESMA Navy Mechanics School which was converted into a concentration camp. Those sentenced to life included former naval officers Alfredo Astiz (guilty of the disappearance of two French nuns among others) and Jorge “Tigre” Acosta, who ran the detention centre from 1976 to 1979, as well as two “death flight” pilots. Six defendants were also acquitted, including former Treasury Secretary Juan Alemann.


The search for the missing ARA San Juan submarine took a sad yet seemingly inevitable turn on Thursday, when the Navy formally announced that the hunt for survivors was over.

The search for the vessel will continue, yet the “rescue” part of the mission has now ended.


The 24 new senators elected in the midterm elections six weeks ago and sworn in on Wednesday included no less than three ex-presidents: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (for Buenos Aires province), Carlos Menem (La Rioja) and Adolfo Rodríguez Saá (San Luis). While Menem’s fourth senatorial term met with the most serious legal objections since he has already been convicted in two of the various cases against him (under appeal), it was CFK who both commanded the most attention and had the biggest political impact, splitting the Victory Front caucus within a day of her return over its representation in the Magistrates Council. The person who defeated her in the provinvisl race to become senator, Esteban Bullrich, was also sworn in.


While the Senate was passing the pension reform bill on Wednesday, tens of thousands were demonstrating outside Congress against both that legislation and the Mauricio Macri administration’s labour reform. State workers, teachers, opposition supporters, pickets and dissident trade unionists formed the bulk of the demonstrators.

The helm of the CGT mainstream umbrella grouping has agreed to the labour (although not pension) reform but teamster leader Pablo Moyano, a CGT secretary, was prominent in Wednesday’s mass protest, which its organisers estimated to be 300,000 strong. The Senate with its outgoing Peronist majority has postponed the labour reform until next year. Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña dismissed the protest as a “Kirchnerite march” with the only surprise “seeing a Moyano again with the Kirchners” after several years of hostility between the two families. The vast majority of the CGT was behind the reform, said Peña.


The Federal Appeals Court yesterday rejected an appeal by Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, upholding her trial for presumed money- laundering. The ex-president’s two children, Máximo (a national deputy) and Florencia, face similar charges in what has come to be known as the Hotesur case, a reference to the Patagonian hotel chain, whose bogus bills were used to launder money (especially by tycoon Lázaro Báez), according to the accusation. Liens of 110 million pesos each were slapped on mother and son and 100 million on the daughter. A total of 17 defendants (including Báez) are being tried by Julián Ercolini. As a senator, the ex-president enjoys parliamentary immunity.


Vice-president of Independiente football club, Noray Nakis, was arrested in the small hours of Thursday on various charges arising from his “barra brava” hooligan links including extortion, money-laundering and the illegal possession of firearms. Various hooligans were arrested with him, including Roberto “El Polaco” Petrov (a bodyguard of teamster leader Hugo Moyano, who is in turn father-in-law of AFA Argentine Football Association president Carlos “Chiqui” Tapia), who fired on the police officers coming to arrest him, wounding two. Four million pesos were found in Nakis’ home.


Mapuche militant Rafael Nahuel, 21, was shot dead by Prefectura Naval officers (Coast Guards) last weekend at Villa Mascardi (some 35 kilometres outside Bariloche) during an operation by the elite Albatros squad to dislodge an indigenous group occupying the zone. Security Minister Patricia Bullrich justified their action ahead of any autopsy or enquiry, claiming gunfire from the occupied mountain and saying the benefit of the doubt should lie with the force.


While the Odebrecht scandal has been eclipsed in recent weeks by other news, the case continues – last Monday prosecutor Franco Picardi asked for a 54-million-peso injunction to be slapped on the assets of President Mauricio Macri’s cousin Angelo Calcaterra, affirming that not only Calcaterra’s Iecsa but also Italy’s Ghella and Spain’s Comsa partnering Odebrecht had been bribed by the Brazilian engineering giant in the course of winning the Sarmiento rail underpass contract.


The Inter-American Court of Human Rights requested Monday that Jujuy indigenous leader Milagro Sala be returned to house arrest, expressing concern over her psychological and physical health. On Thursday a new trial against Sala began for threatening policemen she would “blowing up” their precinct in 2014 if they did not release a Tupac Amaru militant. CELS said that the state had no more excuses for delaying her release.

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