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05/01/2008 | Argentina, Venezuela and America: Slush and Garbage

The Economist Staff

The imbroglio over a cash-stuffed suitcase

 

When Cristina Fernández replaced her husband, Néstor Kirchner, as Argentina's president on December 10th, she hinted that she would improve her country's strained relations with the United States. But exactly a week later a prosecutor in Miami accused five men of trying to cover up an alleged effort to funnel Venezuelan cash to Ms Fernández's election campaign. The president promptly accused the United States government of mounting "a garbage operation" against her. With the only two of the five so far indicted pleading not guilty on December 27th, the stage seems set for months of revelations—and bad blood. At the centre of this tangle is Guido Antonini Wilson, a Venezuelan businessman who also has an American passport and who lives in Key Biscayne, a wealthy Miami enclave. Last August Mr Antonini arrived in Buenos Aires from Caracas on a private jet chartered by Argentina's state energy company, clutching a suitcase with $800,000 in cash which he had failed to declare. Customs officials confiscated the cash but let Mr Antonini go. When the story reached the Argentine papers, Mr Kirchner sacked Claudio Uberti, his unofficial envoy to Caracas who was also on the plane, as were officials from PDVSA, Venezuela's state oil company. Thereafter the five accused—four Venezuelans and a Uruguayan—met Mr Antonini several times in Miami. According to the American Justice Department, they tried through threats and the offer of $2m to persuade him not to reveal that the cash came from the Venezuelan government and, prosecutors claim, was intended for Ms Fernandez's campaign. These conversations were recorded secretly by Mr Antonini, who was co-operating with the FBI, and are alleged to have included several phone calls with officials in Venezuela's secret police. The Justice Department has charged the five with operating illegally as Venezuelan government agents. Of that there is no proof, says Ed Shohat, a defence lawyer. They were merely offering friendly advice to Mr Antonini, he said.

Argentine officials claim that the whole case is a CIA fabrication and a reprisal for the Kirchners' ties to Venezuela's left-wing president, Hugo Chávez. Mr Kirchner demanded that the Americans send Mr Antonini to Argentina to face justice there. But that begs the question as to why the Argentine government allowed him to leave in August, and had shown no subsequent interest in investigating him. Mr Uberti's former secretary told an Argentine judge last month that she saw Mr Antonini at a reception at the presidential palace two days after the cash was discovered.

Mr Kirchner's government forged an alliance of convenience with Mr Chávez. Since 2005 Venezuela has bought $5 billion of Argentine bonds, most of which it has passed on to friendly local banks at a steep discount; it has sold Argentina diesel fuel under special arrangements that include the purchase of Argentine products from providers selected by the governments without competitive tenders.

American officials have long been searching for evidence to back up their claims that Mr Chávez is using Venezuelan oil wealth to fund political allies across Latin America. The case may establish whether they have now found convincing proof of that. It has already shone light on the extravagant lifestyle of a small group of wealthy Venezuelan expatriates in Florida with close business ties to Mr Chávez's government, of which both Mr Antonini and the accused formed part. One of the defendants, Franklin Durán, drives a Ferrari; in partnership with another, he owns a petrochemical firm which has contracts with PDVSA.

After her initial outburst, Ms Fernández herself has kept quiet about the case. But her government has restricted contacts with the American ambassador in Buenos Aires. She is playing to a public that is more anti-American than any other south of the Rio Grande. As Joaquín Morales Solá, a political analyst, puts it, the Argentine predisposition "is to look for a conspiracy, to see captive courts [in the United States] because Argentina has them. It's a mixture of narcissism and naivety."

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


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18/09/2009|
18/09/2009|
18/09/2009|
16/09/2009|
16/09/2009|
16/09/2009|
08/09/2009|
07/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
26/08/2009|
21/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
19/07/2009|
19/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House