Argentina is facing turbulent times of huge political impact. It is not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor solely due to the friction between the government of president Alberto Fernández and the agribusiness sector, following the announcement of intervention and expropriation of a cereal company that had ripped off the state. But it is also because of the progress in a judicial process that put the opposition under check, including the former president, Mauricio Macri.
What is this lawsuit about? Several judges are studying secret espionage led by the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) and with significant relations and interests with the previous government, led by the businessman, Mauricio Macri.
In short, the AFI spied on political leaders of the then opposition (now the ruling government), as well as journalists, social leaders, Church representatives and trade union leaders. Although one of the main objectives of the agency was to follow the former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
In addition, the illegal espionage that took place during Macri’s government was also responsible for persecuting political leaders of the former president’s own party. It is a real scandal, and 22 people have already been arrested, including AFI agents and former officials of Macri’s government.
Progress was made in the case after several strong lines of evidence were presented, including WhatsApp conversations between different intelligence agents and Susana Martinengo, the former Presidential Documentation Secretary, who –according to several witnesses– was very close to the former president.
The link between illegal espionage and the political sector became even clearer after it was also known that much of the espionage work carried out by the AFI, ended up in the hands of Dario Nieto, Macri’s current and then private secretary, a person of extreme trust.
Despite the fact, Judge Villena has not yet summoned Macri, the leader of Together for Change, the coalition of right-wing political parties. However, the advances in the case leave the door open for this to happen sooner rather than later.
In the month of March this year, President Alberto Fernández referred to these practices as a true “rock bottom of democracy” and among the first measures he took after assuming power, was intervening in the intelligence agency.
“It is hard to believe that the state is spying on us or on what an opponent, a journalist, a businessman is doing. All this has really annoyed me, I’m very annoyed. It is absolutely antagonistic to the idea of the rule of law,” said the president recently, referring to the case that hit the national political sphere.
Meanwhile, Macri waits silently and worriedly. From their political space they only managed to release a short statement in which they said that the case is an attempt to “deflect the corruption cases” that accuse some officials of the Kirchnerist government (2003-2015).
However, the documents that brought about justice in a short time, leave little room for the responsibility of espionage not to fall to the political power, then led by Mauricio Macri.
What the justice is trying to figure out is whether there really was a high-level meeting led by the former president and other senior officials who were deciding and coordinating the actions to put pressure on judges, and carry out a real illegal espionage plan on opposition leaders and members of their own party. A practice that, if fully verified, would leave a new stain on the short and painful history of Argentine democracy.