A week from the national and gubernatorial primaries, Canal 13’s show Periodismo Para Todos’ (Journalism for All) accused Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández of being connected to the ephedrine trafficking business and the “Triple Crime” that took place in 2008. The resulting media attention has heated up the Victory Front’s (FpV) run for governor to a level that would burn your asado in no time.
Yesterday morning, when the echoes of the show’s report were still audible, Aníbal had the chance to tell his side of the story. He counter attacked, mustache-style, during his usual encounter with the press right before entering the Casa Rosada: “This accusation is a bucket of shit I’m being subjected to. But I have a broad back, I can take it,” he stated during an interview with Continental Radio, confident the charge was destined to end up in the gutter: “This ends in the trash can, as it must,” he assured.
During the morning, the mustache aficionado, who stated he was willing to go to court to clarify anything that needed, also said his lawyers would present a criminal case against those who had anything to do with the report. They also ended up filing a civil one as well because why not. His intention is to “take them to court so that they can show the papers they claim to have, and put them on the table.” He also extended a challenge: “Some day, even if I’m old and decrepit [you decide how long it takes for him to get there], I’ll prove what these guys did was shit.”
However, the most resounding declaration came later, when the Cabinet Chief accused his rival in the Victory Front’s gubernatorial run and current Chamber of Deputies President Julián Domínguez of being responsible for the report that got him into said shit bucket: “This is an outright aggression, financed by a huge amount of money by my contenders in the FpV run,” indicated Fernández, who accused several media outlets of favoring him: “Every article they have written about him are positive and we, those who still uphold the government’s interests, have been harassed with negative ones.”
Julián Domínguez’s reaction during the day
The Chamber of Deputies’ president was quick to back the cabinet chief up right after the scandal erupted.
In an official statement released a few minutes before Fernández’s, Domínguez called the charge “shameful,” and qualified it as “some sort of media operation.” “It’s suspicious that Periodismo Para Todos releases this report now, only a week from the primaries,” he stated.
Nevertheless, the gubernatorial hopeful didn’t remain idle and answered Aníbal via Twitter a few hours later. How millenial is he?
You: -More statements from Domínguez! More statements from Domínguez!
Me: -I’m all about the readers, here you go.
Domínguez, seconded by his running-mate, held a press conference at 7 PM to clarify, one more time, that they were not behind the scandal: “His unsubstantiated charge was unacceptable. We will not tolerate this new accusation,” he said.
The run for FpV candidacy
The main issue is how this scandal will impact Fernandez’s political aspirations.
After Florencio Randazzo stepped down as presidential contender and left Daniel Scioli as the sole FpV presidential hopeful, the ruling party’s race to the BA Province has gotten the spotlight when it comes to political feud matters. According to a poll carried out by OPSM, as of July 28, both candidates had gathered 41.5% of projected votes in the country’s largest electoral district. Buenos Aires is a massive political stronghold where 11,867,979 people (37% of the national electorate) will be able to cast their ballot on Sunday. In it, the binomial composed by Aníbal Fernández and AFSCA Director Martín Sabatella has a 4.5 point difference over Julián Domínguez and La Matanza Mayor Fernando Espinoza.
Let’s recall these candidates are the only ones who survived the purge generated by President Cristina Kirchner’s call for a “humility bath” earlier this year. Domínguez’s numbers have grown exponentially but are still not close to Fernandez’s in the polls. However, taking into account how shitty polls have been during the electoral year, only Sunday can actually tell what will happen.
The opposition’s reaction
Politicians from either side of the spectrum voiced their thoughts on the scandal.
María Eugenia Vidal, who will compete against the accused, stated on Radio Mitre: “I think it’s extremely serious. I think it’s tremendous for two reasons. First, because it’s about three people’s death. And second, because if we talk about ephedrine, we’re talking about pills our kids take.”
Mauricio Macri: “It’s a topic I have brought to the table. Drug trafficking touches many areas, it makes its way into the political, judicial and security systems. This reaffirms the need for change in how we do politics, in the people who have led the country these last few years. It’s tremendous because drug traffickers have taken control of the villas.”
Sergio Massa: “It’s an extremely serious charge, the judicial system has to move forward with it.”
Felipe Solá, A New Alternative [Massa’s party] gubernatorial hopeful: “His responsibility regarding drug growth has been very important. By omission, I think.”
As always, we’ve saved the best for last. National deputy and presidential hopeful for the Civic Coalition party Elisa “Lilita” Carrió, who has always linked the Cabinet Chief with drug trafficking, gave her two cents on the subject and pointed out that, if the charge were actually a result of the Kirchnerite gubernatorial run, it’d really be a “fight over drugs,” as vice governor hopeful Fernando Espinoza is the “drug chief in La Matanza.” “They are fighting over who ends up with the business,” concluded Carrió, who also accused Daniel Scioli of being a part of the operation. And she didn’t finish there. “Aníbal is a criminal, it’s clear now. I also want to denounce all federal judges. No one dared take him on because he was a power player and could get them killed,” she shot. Never a dull moment when Carrió gets air waves.
While we’re on the Carrió subject: a gift from The Bubble to you.
— Adrian Bono (@AdrianBono) julio 1, 2015
The entire scandal erupted after Periodismo Para Todos, the show hosted by government nightmare Jorge Lanata, ran the report yesterday. In it, former police officer Martín Lanatta, who’s now in jail after having been found guilty of murder and for having ties with a group dedicated to ephedrine trafficking, accused the Cabinet Chief of being the mastermind behind a triple crime related to said shady business. On August 13 2008, three “businessmen” were found dead on the side of a road in General Rodríguez, BA Province, after missing for a week. It was later revealed they were planning to leave a drug trafficking organization they were part of, take a large contact list and create a new one.
The three men – Sebastián Forza, Leopoldo Bina and Damián Ferrón – were murdered in Lanatta’s house in Quilmes (Fernandez’s home town) and later dumped in a site where they were finally found.
Lanatta was sentenced to life (it’s not actually life in Argentina, as an inmate can get out of jail after serving 20 to 35 years, depending on the circumstance). Three other criminals were also convicted.
The show’s complete report, featuring Lanatta’s declarations:
The report featured several other witnesses, all who described how the business was run, and the cabinet chief’s role in it.
“I took the money from the ephedrine sale, took it from the Mexicans’ apartment to Aníbal Fernández’s home. There were US$2 million, we stopped behind the bodyguard’s car and left the money. The second time we took US$3 million. The first time, they gave me US$20,000. I didn’t speak in court due to the case’s magnitude, and because of the guy who’s across the room. I knew I didn’t have to speak up. I did now and will ask for protection, I know who I’m dealing with,” said Lanatta.
The beginning of Day Two didn’t measure up to its predecessor in terms of explosive declarations. But first, we have to go back to Monday night. After a busy day, Domínguez attended the country’s most watched show – Showmatch (our version of Dancing with the Stars) – and danced a chacarera (folkloric dance) while Espinoza watched the whole thing from the sidelines. Because why the hell not. The mayor of La Matanza is a regular on the show since one of the pairs competes to raise money for an organization based in his city, and he had promised to bring Domínguez to the show. The gubernatorial hopeful had claimed several times he was a master of the chacarera and effectively proved on Monday night that you can’t tell whether he’s good or not because that dance is boring as hell.
Aníbal strikes back
Back to Tuesday. In his daily press encounter, Fernández presented photos to support his claims. They showed that one of the interviews featured in the report was recorded in his nemesis Elisa Carrio’s house.
“Carrió’s private meetings match with the place where Salerno [a witness in the report]. I’ll broaden my accusation today and include false testimony charges.” The stakes were raised.
Of course, he was asked about his rival’s dance on Marcelo Tinelli’s show. Far from calming down the fight, the cabinet chief said: “I didn’t watch it, but I got 30 million text messages from people who were taking medication to calm nausea.”
Lanatta’s lawyer says he lied
Wait, what? Yes, the whistle-blower’s lawyer Roberto Casorla Yalet called his client out in an interview with Vorterix radio today.
“It’s not true what he said, I’m not aware he knows Aníbal Fernández. He always tried to reach him, but couldn’t. The version about the money drop is false as well. That’s a story created by Solange Bellone. And while it’s true that during the trial the “Walrus” nickname was brought up, it’s verified that person is not Aníbal Fernández,” stated Yalet. Wait, what indeed.
Only time will tell if the report is true, but right now Aníbal has a more urgent concern, which is to see how it affects his chances in the gubernatorial run. We’ll see how Sunday works out.