Prosecutors in Argentina on Friday opened a formal investigation into allegations that the Mauricio Macri government sent ammunition to Bolivia that was used by authorities to repress the followers of Evo Morales in 2019.
Prosecutor Carlos Navas Rial decided to open an investigation against Macri, based on a complaint from Argentina’s current ministers of justice, Martín Soria, and security, Sabina Frederic. The officials accuse the former president of ammunition smuggling, a crime that could see jail terms of between four and twelve years handed down.
Former security minister Patricia Bullrich and defence minister Oscar Aguad are also listed as defendants in the investigation. Several members of the Gendarmerie (Border Guard), the security forces who are alleged to have taken the delivery to Bolivia, are also under investigation.
Earlier this week, Macri "roundly” denied affirmations from the Bolivian government that Argentina had delivered "lethal ammunition" and tear gas to the Bolivian military that was used to repress social protests in November, 2019 during the political crisis that saw a caretaker government led by conservative leader Jeanine Áñez take office in La Paz.
"I want to flatly deny the veracity of these accusations," the Juntos por el Cambio leader, currently in Switzerland, said in a public letter, emphasising that his government had granted asylum to officials from Evo Morales’ government at Argentina’s Embassy in La Paz.
Bullrich has also denied the allegations, writing in a post on social networks that "any request for material for the Bolivian Air Force never passed through my hands."
A judge must soon decide whether to take testimony from the defendants in the case.
Last week, Bolivian Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta released a copy of a letter sent by then-Bolivian Air Force chief-of-staff Gonzalo Terceros to then-Argentina’s ambassador in La Paz, Normando Álvarez García, thanking him for the reception of "40,000 cartridges AT 12/70 (of rifle ammunition)" plus 100 tear gas canisters.
Terceros and his naval colleague Gonzalo Jarjuri were arrested last weekend and are being investigated for the incidents of 2019.
Frederic claims that the ammunition was sent "covertly" in an Air Force plane that took 10 members of the security forces to Bolivia, who in turn reinforced the Embassy's security.
"The crime consists of saying that the ammunition goes to the Embassy and [it] ends up in the possession of the Bolivian Air Force and in the police depot," Soria reportedly told a group of foreign correspondents this week.
The accusations of electoral fraud following the 2019 elections plunged Bolivia into social upheavals which ended in the resignation of Morales after 14 years in power.
He was succeeded by conservative leader Jeanine Áñez, who used repressive methods to crush the resistance of trade unions and peasants allied to the indigenous ex-president.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH in its Spanish acronym), the crisis left 35 dead.
The government first denounced Macri and officials of his administration in court on Monday for the presumed "illegal despatch of armaments and ammunition to Bolivia." The presentation accused the previous administration of having placed "repressive material at the disposal of the dictatorship which had recently taken power in the neighbouring country, headed by Jeanine Áñez, after the military coup against the constitutional government of Evo Morales."
In a letter to his Bolivian colleague Luis Arce, President Alberto Fernández expressed his "pain and shame" over the charges against his predecessor, claiming that they were proven and "apologising" in the name of the Argentine people.
In a statement dismissing the claims, Macri not only denied the accusations but also repudiated the letter of Fernández, saying the president’s actions had "devalued his word and signature."