Friday, January 27, 2023

ARGENTINA | 21-10-2017 11:00

What we learned this week: Maldondado's body found, De Vido and an election on hold

Key stories from the last seven days.


One story dominated the news this week, the discovery on Tuesday of a body in Chubut which investigators believed to be the body of the missing 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado. Last night, his family said they were “convinced” the body was his, all but confirming that their loved relative’s death. The news of the body’s discovery prompted all the major political forces in the country to suspend campaigning (though whether they complied with that idea fully is up for serious debate) ahead of the midterm elections tomorrow and there was little word from the government all week, with President Mauricio Macri making no public comment. At a heartbreaking press conference this week, where some journalists shamed themselves with their actions, Maldonado’s family asked the media for respect, to remember that there was a person and a family at the heart of this investigation and requested that they stick to reporting the facts. Sadly for the family, they must now reconcile themselves with the most painful of truths. We hope that this confirmation will, at the very least, bring them some closure. Now, they must receive justice and find out the truth about what happened to him.


Former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido found himself remanded in custody not once but twice – in the same week – in the final run-up to tomorrow’s midterms but both rulings remain abstract for now like similar judicial drives in the past – first De Vido must be stripped of his parliamentary immunity by his fellowdeputies if he is to face the music. But Roberto Baratta, De Vido’s right-hand man when minister, was less fortunate, being arrested on Thursday at the behest of Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio. On Tuesday three judges probing alleged fraud – related to the Patagonian coal mine Rio Turbio, which has been almost completely unproductive despite receiving state investments of some 26 billion pesos during the 12 years of Kirchnerite presidency (2003-15) – ordered the jailing of the ex-minister. They were echoed on Thursday by Bonadio investigating fraudulent natural gas distribution contracts to the tune of US$7 billion allegedly masterminded by De Vido and Baratta. De Vido has been at the centre of  many of the corruption scandals that plague the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner presidency.


Former foreign minister Héctor Timerman testified last Tuesday in Comodoro Py courthouse to answer charges of having joined a conspiracy to cover up the Iranian role in the 85-death terrorist bombing of AMIA Jewish community centre in 1994 but the news centred less on the content of his testimony than the state of his health. Timerman, who has been struggling against both cancer and coronary problems, could hardly walk into the courtroom and was taken from there barely conscious to Otamendi Hospital. As for the hearing itself, he presented a written statement and refused to answer questions.


President Mauricio Macri’s government may have finally found a route to removing Attorney General Alejandra Gils Carbó from her position, after a judge issued a ruling against her yesterday. Judge Pablo Cayssials found that Article 76 of Law 27.148 – which effectively says the only way to oust the attorney general from their post is through impeachment proceedings – was “unconstitutional.” While Gils Carbó can appeal the ruling (and she is said to consider it an attack on the country’s institutions), the government may be able to reform the law, local reports said, which would allow them to remove the attorney general. The government has long tried to pressure the attorney general – who they consider to be allied with Kirchnerism and against the Macri administration – on multiple occasions to step down and it is once again reiterating its demands after a judge last week opened a criminal case against Gils Carbó for allegedly defrauding the state during the purchase of a property by her office in 2013.


Around 100 journalists including Perfil founder Jorge Fontevecchia, and former Buenos Aires Herald editors Robert Cox and Sebastián Lacunza have signed a petition defending freedom of expression against pressure from the Mauricio Macri government on Página/12 journalist Horacio Verbitsky, who published details from the Macri family’s tax whitewash submissions in that newspaper. The statement was entitled “Information cannot be silenced.” Verebitsky had accused certain individuals with connections to officials, such as Macri’s brother Gianfranco, the president’s business friend Nicolás Caputo and businessman Marcelo Mindlin (who replaced Macri’s cousin Angelo Calcatierra in owning the Iecsa construction company) among others of illegally joining the whitewash to the tune of over US$132 million in total. The signatories also included some journalists seen as generally sympathetic to the Macri administration such as Nelson Castro.


The defence lawyers of Jujuy social activist Milagro Sala, recently returned to prison from house arrest, have asked the national Supreme Court not to delay any further a ruling in her case. Her imprisonment runs counter to the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights with the definite risk of suicide, her lawyers argue.

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