The former mayor of La Banda, Héctor Eduardo “Chabay” Ruiz, is in trouble.
On Sunday afternoon Judge Raúl Santucho issued an arrest warrant order for the former head and current municipal councilor of the Santiago del Estero town, after a drawn-out and hushed-down investigation into “rape with sexual intercourse.” And the likelihood that he’s decided to run.
The crime allegedly took place in May 2013, in Ruiz’s own offices in the municipality, when he met with an older woman, who chose to remain anonymous under the initials CAG, for a work-related audience.
CAG described the incident to La Nación, saying that “he kissed her unexpectedly and threw her onto a white armchair, ripping off her shirt and taking down her trousers while he held up her arms by force.”
A DNA investigation backed up her claims, finding saliva inside her shirt as well as bruise marks over her arms, forearms and thigh. In a physical examination – which he described as “humiliating” – a scratch was also noted on Ruiz’s right hand.
The ex-mayor is currently being searched by the police, who were informed that he had traveled to Buenos Aires with his girlfriend to celebrate the Racing victory in Plaza de Mayo, but was supposed to have arrived back in Santiago de Estero on Sunday.
What apparently went down: the pair returned strategically during the siesta hours and locked themselves into their country house. After discovering the police were approaching, Ruiz sent his girlfriend out by the front, while he himself escaped from the back in a grey Amarok van. Police have initiated searches and road blocks, but his whereabouts are still unknown.
On the other hand, the councilor’s lawyer, Guillermo Ruíz Alveda, had previously defended his client’s public position by assuring that he had so far “only been accused of it,” while Ruiz himself insisted that several meetings had taken place with CAG “without the least friction.” He cited as his main defense the lack of sperm found in the DNA tests, and claimed that all that other evidence was just “planted” (possibly by his long-standing political rival, Gerardo Zamora) in order to hijack his political career. It’s likely this defense would be more convincing if the accused hadn’t just done a runner.
The tale gets twistier: Leonel Rodríguez, the La Nación journalist who initially covered the case and published the accusations against the former mayor on October 14th, recently reported receiving multiple death threats, citing in particular an incident outside his parents’ house in La Banda on November 8th. His mother, provoked by the strong smell of paint, opened their front door at 6.30 AM to find a pool of black paint, tar bombs and a miniature coffin, which when opened by the police was found to be filled with earth and coarse salt.
Rodríguez has also received threats on Facebook warning him to “stay away from Chabay, you son of a bitch,” as well as from Leandro Ruiz – yep, that’s the twenty year-old son of Chabay – during a Sergio Massa visit to La Banda on the 28th of August, to close a Ruiz campaign. The presidential candidate speedily distanced himself from Chabay in a statement rubber-stamping his total defense of free press.
Ruiz had been city mayor for the past 25 years, working with a range of parties from UCR to the FPV. In 2003 he came out of the political closet as un ultra-kirchnerite, although he unexpectedly jumped ship last year to join Massa’s Frente Renovador (Renewal Front).
The lawyers for the prosecution, Francisco Cavallotti and Úrsula Fava have denounced the practice of using political titles to obstruct the work of the judges as “repugnant” and argue that “the Judicial power of politics owes a debt to society.”
Ruiz is expected to stand trial for rape between late February and early March of next year.
If he shows up, that is.