Residents of the city of Río Gallegos in the province of Santa Cruz witnessed a surprising sight yesterday afternoon when at least five bright yellow armored trucks accompanied by heavily armed police paraded through the city.
The trucks reportedly arrived empty to the local airport Piloto Fernández, where they were loaded up with an estimated AR$1.3 billion in cash. Three of the five trucks delivered their load to banks in the city of Río Gallegos, while the other two continued on likely to Tierra del Fuego further south.
Local news organization OPI Santa Cruz reported on the unusual activity, likely prompting an official response from the Bank of Santa Cruz stating that “the movement of the armored trucks observed in the past few hours in Bank of Santa Cruz branches in Río Gallegos corresponds to the normal operation of the Central Bank of the Republic of Argentina (BCRA) and the Regional Treasury.”
According to a local news source at OPI that remained anonymous, the money was intended for Santa Cruz’s new governor and outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s sister-in-law, Alicia Kirchner, as well as her Tierra del Fuego counterpart Rosana Bernton. The reason? The local informant alleges that it is to allow Alicia Kirchner’s government to pay salaries and end-of-year bonuses so as not to draw local attention to additional public spending. The province allegedly runs a massive deficit, and this cash from the outgoing national government would buy enough time to negotiate with the new government down the road.
This is speculation; however, five armored vehicles suddenly driving from airports to banks warrants a better explanation than, “This is something routine we always do, you’ve just all somehow managed to never notice it 15 days before a government changeover.”