It has been an intense week for Federal Judge Julián Ercolini, who is investigating an alleged plan to “loot the state coffers” that prosecutors say was organized during the Kirchner administration. Monday was the turn of the former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, but she refused to answer questions, requested an audit of all public works awarded between 2003 and 2015 and denounced she was the victim of a political persecution that intended to banish her from politics.
After Fernández de Kirchner came former Planning Minister Julio De Vido and the public works tycoon Lázaro Báez, suspected of being the recipient of public works contract that had as an ulterior goal embezzling public funds. But much like Fernández, they both refused to answer the judge’s questions and resorted to the same judicial strategies. De Vido claimed both him and the former president were victims of political persecution and Báez requested an audit of all public works between 2003 and 2015.
Speaking to the press after leaving Ercolini’s office, De Vido, who was in charge of public works during the Kirchner years, said this and other similar investigations seek to “criminalize” Fernández “through the judicial questioning of legitimate acts of the [former] government.” And also same as the former president, he believes there’s a clear reason for this: to “banish her from politics due to her recent rise in the polls” ahead of next year’s midterms. “The government wants to avoid a defeat in the next elections, that’s why it’s initiating this persecution,” De Vido said, who killed two birds with one stone and went straight to another courthouse to testify regarding his involvement in a case investigating the creation of an airline called Lafsca, which received several million from the state but never took off.
Báez, for his part, also refused to answer and instead handed in a written statement, denying all charges filed against him. Moreover, he requested the process be annulled arguing he is being charged with crimes than can only be committed by current or former public officials and called for an audit of all public works executed since 2003. In the statement he also requested authorities analyze transport-related public works — the ones Báez conducted — in Santa Cruz in order to establish if the prices were different from other provinces due to the climate and geographic conditions.
The prosecutors are trying to determine whether the Kirchner administration knowingly and unlawfully gave the green light for Báez to obtain 80 percent of the public works project that were supposed to be carried out in Santa Cruz Province between 2003 and 2015 — which amount to AR$16 billion — in order to get a percentage of the benefits back and thus embezzle public funds.