Photo via Crónica

Former union leader Hugo Moyano decided yesterday to publicly address the growing legal accusations against him regarding alleged mismanagement and money laundering in the teamsters union and Independiente Football Club, two institutions over which he has a great deal of influence.

He is currently the president of Independiente and was secretary general of the Teamsters Union between 1987 and 2004, only leaving his post to become the leader of the CGT umbrella union, a position he held until 2016.

In an interview with journalist Samuel “Chiche” Gelblung at Crónica TV, Moyano denied having committed any crimes and argued that the recent accusations are a part of a government strategy to quash anyone who opposes its policies.

Moyano also upped the ante and, when asked if he was afraid of going to prison, he said that if that ends up happening, he wants to be put “in the cell next to [President Mauricio] Macri’s father.” We can only speculate he is making reference to potential shady deals conducted by Macri’s father, Franco, in the past.

But wait. Before going over statements, let’s take a step back and look at the context in which they happened, and the reasons why they are politically relevant.

For a while now, the Judiciary seems to be leading an implicit crusade against high-profile union leaders, who, as formal representatives of blue-collar workers in the political arena, wield a great deal of influence in the public conversation.

Amongst all those head honchos stands Hugo Moyano, arguably the most powerful union leader in Argentina in the last 30 years, despite being formally retired.

The first episode of the kind took place in September 2016, when Omar “Caballo” (yes, people called him horse) Suárez, then head of the SOMU (Union of United Maritime Workers) was indicted and preemptively arrested, following a court order by Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral. Suárez was accused of leading an unlawful association which blackmailed business leaders of the maritime trade sector, as well as embezzling money from the union’s coffers.

This process has picked up its pace in the last few months, and even more so in the first days of 2018. Suárez was followed by Juan Manuel “Pata” Medina (the head of the La Plata section of the UOCRA, the massive union of construction workers, the same union’s leaders of the Bahía Blanca section) and Marcelo Balcedo, head of the SOEME union (the union that represents workers and employees who execute tasks related with education and in direct contact with minors). Still with me? Good.

Balcedo was arrested in Uruguay on January 4, 2018.
Balcedo was arrested in Uruguay on January 4, 2018.

In this context, Hugo Moyano and his son Pablo – who is now the current leader of the teamsters union and vice president of Independiente – were accused of conducting unlawful activities in the union such as money laundering, as well as being involved in shady business conducted by the barrabravas – an organized group of hooligans who conduct illegal businesses related to a football club, such as scalping, for example – of Independiente.

All accused union leaders have stuck to the same script: they say that the Macri administration is actually behind their legal problems – by instructing the judges to go after them – in retaliation for opposing its government policies, especially the President’s plan to reform the country’s labor laws. Government representatives, in contrast, claim they have nothing to do with this, but nonetheless celebrate that the justice system is moving on what they call the “union mobs.”

Hugo and Pablo Moyano began being potential suspects in the Independiente case after the former leader of the Barras, Pablo “Bebote” (yes, “big baby,” some nicknames are so weird), currently in preemptive prison as a result of this case, provided information about their – alleged – involvement as part of a plea deal negotiation. Others accused in the case have followed his steps, describing their actions in further detail.

Álvarez and the accused have said that Pablo Moyano provided the Barras with funds from the union he leads to support their activities. Namely, of paying 1,200 club memberships, give them 100 tickets for the seated sectors and funds for trips to games in other locations, among others.

Pablo Moyano in a box at Independiente's stadium, joined by some barras. Photo via Infobae.
Pablo Moyano in a box at Independiente’s stadium, joined by some barras. Photo via Infobae.

 

In fact, Hugo Moyano was filmed in an Independiente members meeting saying he used funds from the mentioned union to pay for the club’s debts since, same as the vast majority of Argentine football clubs, Independiente usually goes from one financial crisis to the next one. And today, Infobae journalist Gustavo Grabia published a video of a police raid conducted in December 2017, which shows that the barras stored their drums and flags in the stadium’s premises, which could be further proof of the ties between them and the club’s authorities. In fact, club vice president Noray Nakis has already been arrested as a result of this investigation

Yesterday, prosecutor Viviana Giorgi formally charged the Moyanos in the Independiente case. However, this didn’t happen because the prosecutor considered there’s enough evidence to officially consider them to be suspects. It happened because Independiente’s authorities requested that computers taken during police raids be returned to them.

However, the prosecutor said that before this can happen, the computers need to be subjected to probes to determine if they were effectively used to print tickets for the Barra. Since the Moyanos are the club’s highest authorities, she accused them – without pressing criminal charges – in order to let them appoint experts of their own to be present during the probes, something that otherwise couldn’t happen. It’s a legal mess, I know, but it’s how it works.

Pablo and Hugo Moyano. Photo via Argentina 23
Pablo and Hugo Moyano. Photo via Argentina 23

 

In this context, Moyano went to Cronica TV’s studios to accuse the government of being behind the whole thing. “They believe they own everything and want to deflect attention from the serious problems the country is going through by accusing Moyano,” he began.

Regarding the money laundering and tax evasion accusations, he said: what kind of laundering? I can’t understand how people who I imagine to be intelligent can fall for something so stupid. I am not a businessman; I’m a worker. What tax evasion are these people talking about? He went on to deny laundering money at Independiente too, saying that otherwise, he “would have not been voted by 90 percent of the [club’s] members.”

“Ever since the dictatorship I’ve been arrested twice. Then I had drugs planted on me. Everyone knows that was work of the (Argentine) intelligence agency. Everything was a result of fighting alongside the people, instead of governments or business leaders. Now they are upholding an accusation from “Bebote,” he added.

We will see what steps the judiciary takes next. An eventual arrest of Pablo and/or Hugo Moyano would send shock waves through the political landscape. Both have made it clear they won’t go down without a fight.

And they have all the weight of the unions behind them.