Former Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for using public funds to create “anti-Clarín” propaganda. The criminal tribunal that judged him also decided he will have to pay back the AR$ 185,000 he took from the state coffers to order billboards, balloons, zeppelins, flags and lighters, even socks, marked with the words “Clarín lies.”
However, this doesn’t mean he will actually go to prison. According to the Argentine criminal code, offenders who are sentenced to three or fewer years in prison are eligible for probation. This means he won’t actually spend any time behind bars unless he is found guilty of another crime that causes for his accumulated sentences to surpass this threshold. However, he will never be able to hold public office again.
Before hearing the ruling, Moreno attempted to change the tribunal’s mind for the last time, with a speech in which he argued that, by creating and distributing the mentioned elements, the state he represented was “exercising its right to express” itself.
“Clarín had declared war against us. We knew that because it [Clarín] announced it. It was a gentlemen pact. They let us know ‘we are starting the war’ and within the rule of law we [the state] exercised our right to express ourselves,” Moreno argued.
In another passage of his speech, Moreno issued a not-so-veiled threat against the tribunal, warning its members that “if you make the decision from a position of power, and it’s legitimate for you to do it, have in mind that we are in a situation that’s very temporary, everything goes in circles, so they say.”
The propaganda was present in different government-held events between early 2011 and late 2013, but arguablyt he most memorable use of this propaganda took place on an official commercial trip to Angola with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, where socks were given to barefoot children bearing the inscription.
The animosity – to put it mildly – existing between the Kirchner administration and the Clarín media group, which got into full swing after the 2008 conflict between the government and the agricultural sector, is well known, and Moreno played a big role in it. Besides the propaganda, he is widely remembered for crashing Papel Prensa’s shareholder meetings (Papel Prensa is jointly owned by the government, Clarín and La Nación) and even bringing boxing gloves and helmets to one of the assemblies. You can read more about the feud between the Kirchner administration and Clarín here.