Julio De Vido, the former Planning Minister during the three Kirchner administrations and current National Deputy, could be imprisoned today. His peers in the Lower House are to hold a special session this afternoon and will vote on a motion to strip him from his parliamentary immunity. The session follows two requests from Federal Judges Luis Rodríguez and Claudio Bonadio, who are investigating De Vido in two corruption cases and last week determined that he should be imprisoned because otherwise he could use his influence to interfere with the cases – by tampering witnesses, for example.
Yesterday, a special committee in the Lower House tasked with debating the issue approved the motion – the last hurdle before the actual voting – and sent it to the floor. The only representatives who voted against the initiative were the two Victory Front (FpV) deputies present at the session.
Their fellow caucus members didn’t even go to the session, likely to avoid having to cast a vote where they are basically between a rock and a hard place: if they vote in favor, it would look like they are throwing one of their own under the bus; if they vote against, they are going against the law. It’s uncertain what all caucus members will do at today’s session.
Cambiemos’ representatives spearheading the initiative are confident on getting enough votes to reach the goal: “the numbers are there,” anticipated Nicolás Massot, leader of the PRO caucus in the Chamber. His certainty lies on the fact that the request doesn’t really come from them, but from two federal judges. Therefore, refusing to do their bidding would basically be going against the law.
Last July, the government’s representatives in Congress proposed to remove him for “moral inability,” product of the numerous charges against him. They efforts proved to be unfruitful, as the basis of the request caused for several lawmakers to oppose it, arguing that a court should determine that, because otherwise they would be declaring him guilty before learning the actual verdict. “Now there are two of them. There’s no room for excuses,” said Massot when consulted about the possibility of some deputies refusing to support them again. That argument proved true yesterday, as all representatives voted in favor of removing him.
What’s De Vido Being Accused of?
Río Turbio Case
De Vido has been formally accused of embezzling more than AR$ 260 from a project to revamp a massive coal mine and build an electric grid and a train in the city of Río Turbio, in the Santa Cruz Province. However, the sum could be much bigger. Between 2005 and 2015, the state destined AR$ 26 billion to the project, but the train doesn’t work and the mine, which should have been reactivated and its power used to feed the greed produced as much coal as it did in 1951.
“The mining complex had 70 percent fewer galleries than initially projected” and “produces 85 percent less than established. However, it has 233 percent more staff than it should,” argued Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli to substantiate his accusation.
This one investigates him for allegedly having the state pay more than it should for a shipment of liquid gas, and probably getting a kickback because of it.
Bonadio also ordered the detention of his former right-hand-man, Roberto Baratta. And since he doesn’t have parliamentary immunity, he’s going to prison. Both of them have also had his assets seized for a billion pesos. Yes, you read that right. That’s how much the judge believes they could have embezzled and is preventing them from getting read of their assets in case they are found guilty and think of bankrupting themselves to avoid compensating the state.