The journalistic investigations about the possibility that Cambiemos laundered campaign funds through oblivious citizens continues to grow.
In this case, the most resounding allegation did not come from El Destape journalist Juan Amorín, who kickstarted the wave of investigations, but from Diagonales, a news site based in the city of La Plata: it assures that Cambiemos used the same method in the 2015 presidential campaign, but that instead of using social welfare plan recipients – something practically impossible, because they did not have access to the Buenos Aires Province’s database, as they had not won the elections yet – used “former municipal mayors candidates, council members, and school counselors from all districts in the province.”
Alleged contributors interviewed by journalists who conducted the investigation said they never donated any money to the campaign. The investigation uncovered cases in at least 81 districts in the Province – out of a total 135 – for a sum of roughly AR $40 million. Some of the candidates unwillingly involved assured they will seek for the allegations to be cleared in court.
Former Ituzaingó mayoral candidate, Osvaldo Marasco, told Diagonales that “100 percent of the contributors are fake.” “They did the same thing with fundraising dinners. They would create a ‘dinner’ and claim to make money of it. That’s a lie, no one donated. They whitewashed money by copying the lists of candidates we sent to the electoral board and assign them amounts of up to AR $50,000,” he claimed. Other former and current PRO officials echoed these statements.
The investigation brought back to the forefront of the conversation the fact that, in September last year, a court from the Santa Fe Province barred former national deputy and “comedian” Miguel Del Sel, as well as to PRO officials, from holding public office for six months, after they failed to justify the origin of the funds used for the PRO’s 2011 campaign in the province.
However, the sentence is not firm because the defendants appealed the ruling and took it to the National Electoral Court. In 2015, Del Sel ran for governor of Santa Fe, but lost against Miguel Lifschitz by only 1,500 votes. After President Mauricio Macri took office, he was appointed as Ambassador to Panama. Del Sel left his post in April 2017 and retired from politics.
El Destape’s investigation prompted three different criminal investigations. One was initiated by Jorge Di Lello, prosecutor before the electoral court; Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello was assigned another one, a result of an accusation made by NGO La Alameda; and a third was introduced to a La Plata court by provincial Senator Teresa García (Unidad Ciudadana), who directly accused Vidal, her Cabinet Chief Federico Salvai, and other provincial officials of the financial crime. In fact, Judge Casanello has called 50 alleged contributors into questioning.
Considering that several alleged contributors anticipated their intention of pressing charges, it is likely the revelations made by Diagonales result in new judicial investigations.
So far, Cambiemos officials have chosen to not come out to respond to the allegations. Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal, the visible face of the 2017 campaign, addressed the issue for the first time last week, after being asked about it in a press conference.
Vidal, however, dismissed the allegations arguing they came from “Kirchnerite sectors” and said they will submit any documentation required. “There is nothing to hide regarding these accusations that were made about some contributors. We have done two things: first, request an audit of the financial documents within the Cambiemos campaign, and then, make ourselves available to judicial officials,” she said.