Despite the lack of evidence following three years of trial, and the blunders that the judiciary committed by taking “evidence” from other cases, the prosecutors asked for 12 years in prison and a lifetime political ban for Cristina Kirchner. The court, confirming its partiality, denied the former president and current vice-president of Argentina her right to expand the preliminary statement, which prompted a forceful response from her.
Rarely have the workings of the media-judicial-political system in Argentina been exposed with such clarity as we have seen with the nine-day display of a diversionary strategy by the prosecution of the trial on public works in the province of Santa Cruz. After three years, the hearings have not turned up anything compromising against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK). Regardless, as opposition media announced on its own network, Attorney Diego Luciani has requested a 12-year prison sentence for CFK, and lifetime disqualification from holding public office.
The same sentence was handed down to businessman Lázaro Báez. Former Minister of Planning Julio De Vido, former Secretary of Public Works José López, and former chief of National Roads, Nelson Periotti, each received 10 years in prison. CFK actually requested, through her lawyer Carlos Beraldi, to expand the investigation since, as she wrote on Twitter, “the prosecutors, in open violation of the principle of legitimate defense, raised issues in their accusation that had never been raised.” As expected, the court said no.
Fernández announced that this Tuesday she will speak on social media platforms. On Monday night, after the announcement of the sentence, a spontaneous mobilization in support of her, at the door of her house, was repressed by the Buenos Aires city police.
“If something was missing to confirm that I am not before a court of the Constitution, but before a media-judicial firing squad, it is to prevent me from exercising the right of defense before questions that never appeared in the initial motion of the prosecution, that I attended for five days,” the vice president tweeted. For this reason, she announced that this Tuesday, August 23, at 11 a.m., she will “demonstrate, precisely, why they are prohibiting me from speaking in the trial after the obscene script that the prosecutors put together.” It will be a live broadcast, which the media will be able to access.
On Monday morning, after CFK announced that she would ask the court to expand the investigation, the Federal Oral Court 2 (TOF2) notified that the arguments of the defense will begin on September 5. On the list of speakers, she was put in sixth place. During the last part of the hearing this Monday, when the judges announced the rejection of the vice president’s request to testify, CFK’s lawyer Beraldi, enraged, told the prosecution, “It is a shame that you prevent her at the moment in which she has the right to answer to the atrocities that have been said in the accusation… The accused person in a trial has the right to testify as many times as deemed necessary. This right cannot be confused with the ‘last words.’” He added that the decision is “arbitrary and that it distorts the process.”
“This is not a trial, this is a farce,” said the lawyer, and blamed the Supreme Court for it, which had CFK’s claims shelved for three years because the trial was about to begin (as it did) without expert opinions. Just before the start of the arguments, the Supreme Court rejected CFK’s claims.
The message of the prosecution
Attorneys Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola have tried to emphasize that Kirchnerism was not or is not a political project (which a sector of the judiciary disqualifies as “populist” at the same time), but a criminal organization to appropriate public money. They filled the closing day of their arguments with the same discursive formula that they used since the beginning, with repeated phrases. At various times, they used some of the following hyperbolic expressions: “we are facing a crime of extreme gravity,” “the largest corruption scheme ever known in the country,” “they swept away all the principles of public contracting,” “bodies of control are parasitized.” They also stated that they estimated the damage to the state coffers at 5.2 billion pesos, which they requested to seize. It is not clear on what this calculation is based, since the TOF2 case discussed only five of the 51 road works in question. Beraldi pointed out that legal expert Eloy Bona participated in the trial, with the endorsement of the court, despite the fact that he tweeted against CFK, which should constitute partiality.
“Judges, this is the moment, it is corruption or justice,” was another shining phrase from Luciani. He also questioned the Financial Information Unit (UIF) that requested the defendants be acquitted, and the Anti-Corruption Office (OA) for not filing complaints. Both entities had been used by Macrismo against its opponents.
Luciani directed certain sectors of the right wing against CFK by blaming her for having “defrauded the citizens who voted for her” and accused her of having “shown contempt for the citizenry in general by squandering public funds, particularly those of the citizens of Santa Cruz.” He said that she had “power of direction” and that she was seeking “personal profit.”
“I do not find a single mitigating factor for Cristina Kirchner in the face of the crimes committed,” he said. “The accused herself challenged this court by asserting ‘history acquitted me’ when she knows very well that the judiciary is the one that condemns or acquits,” said Luciani. He also accused President Alberto Fernández of “improper interference” in the trial. “I would like to remind you that you said publicly that you resigned as chief of staff for corruption in public works,” he commented, addressing Alberto Fernández.
Alberto Fernández declared the following: “A president or a chief of staff is very removed from each particular project. In almost all cases, what is decided by the head of state is the allocation of funds, but after that it is the province that bids, awards, and controls. One can understand that it is impossible for me to control the 3,000 public works that are going on today, and the 100,000 homes that are being built. That control is not exercised by a minister. You look at the big numbers, if the execution is being done properly.” Obviously, this statement countered the attorneys’ claims that CFK should have been aware of everything. Also, President Alberto Fernández was not asked about the reasons for his resignation when he testified during the trial.
The vice president has received support from all sectors of the ruling coalition Frente de Todos, the CGT and the CTA unions, as well as of leaders from the left. The national government released a statement condemning “judicial and media persecution,” the application of preventive detention as an early penalty, and pointed out the lack of evidence. The president personally expressed solidarity with the vice president on Twitter and then communicated with her. The Association of Prosecutors immediately questioned this alleged interference.
Página|12 has already highlighted that in the three years that this trial has been going on, few media have given it coverage. Those aligned with the opposition ignored it because in hearing after hearing the accusation fell apart and CFK was not even mentioned. The prosecutors could not present any decrees, administrative orders, emails, or messages that linked the former president with public works in Santa Cruz, but only a series of speculations.
Moreover, the report from the Roads Directorate that Javier Iguacel headed at the beginning of the Macri government, from which the case originated, indicated that the works that were paid for were carried out, and that the deadlines were generally met. Despite all that, the prosecution maintain that CFK is the head of an illicit association.
At the time of the hearing—which the attorneys evidently carried out remotely in order to cover more hearings and read their statement (although it is not allowed)—they resorted to false evidence and other files, which they introduced just before starting the hearing.
One of the angles of the prosecution was to bring attention to the bags, carrying $9 million, that José López took to the General Rodríguez convent. Attorney Mola went so far as to say that this money was given to López by a secretary of CFK, Fabián Gutiérrez. However, in the investigation and trial in which López was convicted, it was revealed that the former secretary of Public Works had the money hidden in his house in Río Luján, in a small room that was difficult to access (it was reached by a separate staircase), and even the bills had become humid due to the humidity of the place.
The attorneys showed chats extracted from López’s phone (it is part of the “evidence” that they added at the last minute), but what they found were two messages from 2014 and 2015 in which the former official told a secretary of the then president that Lázaro Báez wanted them to pay him, something that all businesspeople who get contracts from the state do. The conversation was not with CFK. The attorneys still claimed that the messages indicated that the businessman and CFK had two meetings in 2010. They also mentioned the name of CFK’s son Máximo Kirchner, who was not charged in this case.
Another case they alluded to in order to bolster the image of a mega-machinery of corruption is the one known as the “K Money Route,” in which Báez was convicted. They used the will of the businessman, who has his four children as beneficiaries with the condition that they cannot divide the company or the assets for 30 years, according to Judge Sebastián Casanello. For the prosecution, this implied that the owner of the fortune was someone else, when in reality offshore companies or similar mechanisms are used for that sort of concealment. Nor does the name of any Kirchner appear anywhere.
The prosecution alluded to two cases for which hearings were not held, as if something in those files proved crimes. One is “Hotesur-Los Sauces,” in the case of which they claimed that hotels and rentals were forms of money laundering despite the fact that all the defendants, including CFK, were acquitted. The other is the “Notebooks” case, which was not tried either, but was used to allegedly demonstrate the payment of bribes. According to part of the allegation, there were construction companies that participated in the Santa Cruz tenders to simulate a competition, and the Báez companies won. Luciani requested that possible crimes be investigated by the companies Petersen, of the Eskenazi family, and Esuco, belonging to Carlos Wagner, who led the Chamber of Construction. Báez was an enemy of that chamber, there was no reason why they would help him.
(Página|12) by Irina Hauser
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/November 28, 2023
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