Argentina: The Surprise Notebook Scandal that Threatens Kirchner’s Comeback
Argentine prosecutors are combing through eight notebooks that outline years of bribery and corruption by top Kirchner officials in the Ministry of Planning.
Cristina Kirchner dreamed of a triumphant political return; of doing what only Perón had done over the course of modern Argentine history: returning to power, after losing power. The difficult economic situation facing the Macri administration and its silence, seemed to hold out the impossible: to rehabilitate the public image of an individual who was once beyond salvation, and effect a miraculous comeback. But now, it seems that the former president’s aspirations have been dashed once again. Now, an ignominious trip to prison seems a greater possibility than a glorious return the Casa Rosada. And it is all thanks to the ex-wife of a driver at a government ministry thirsting for revenge. “He treated me badly,” she said.
This personal vendetta may prove to be most costly for Cristina Kirchner, thanks to the damning evidence of Kirchner era corrutpion provided in the notebooks that she turned over to authorities.
“You buy me an apartment and we’re all set”
Hilda Horowitz, the ex-wife of Oscar Centeno, who served as a driver for an official of the Federal Planning Ministry of, Julio De Vido, is the woman who may have changed Argentine political destiny. The electoral panorama that was uncertain, a year before the elections, today has a little more clarity: Peronism is increasingly steering clear of Cristina Kirchner, thanks to a corruption scandal called “the Argentine lava jato.”
In an interview with Jorge Lanata, Horowitz did not beat around the bush: she revealed that she spoke to the press and went to court due to the domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of Centeno. “He made me angry, because he treated me badly,” she said. Disregarding the advice of her friends, she thus revealed the existence of eight notebooks with handwritten entires that contained the details of numerous cash dropoffs, for purposes of corruption and bribery. Some of the trips involved visits to Cristina’s personal apartment, while others took place at the Casa Rosada. According to the Horowitz, her ex-husband drank and mistreated her both physically and verbally, which is why after the separation she decided to provide incriminating evidence against Centeno. “Instead of exploding with rage alone by myself, I exploded by going to court.”
Horowitz acknowledged that Centeno got her an apartment in the housing complex of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, but that she was not satisfied with the location, since she had a long commute to her work, (a government position which her husband had also found for her during the Kirchner era). Sheeven admitted that she envied the home of another top official in the Ministry of Planning, Roberto Baratta, who was also ensnared in the web of corruption and bribery. In fact, many of Centeno’s cash dropoffs were made at the behest of Baratta.
If they knew we had the notebooks, they would kill us
The prosecutor on the case, Carlos Stornelli, said that if the defendants learned of the existence of the corruption notebooks, both he and Judge Claudio Bonadio could end up dead. After what happened with his colleague Alberto Nisman, this does not sound crazy. “Centeno provided extra information, some of it crucial. We will be able to get to the truth,” said prosecutor Stornelli.
Recently, it has been confirmed that several of the businessmen who appear in the scandalous notebooks desire to plead guilty, (with the potential to testify against high-ranking Kirchner-era political figures), so the notebook scandal may lead Argentina down the path towards Brazil over the coming weeks and months: The demise of the Workers Party in Brazil may presage the demise of Kirchnerismo in Argentina.
As Argentine prosecutors move forward with a full investigation as to the extent and nature of Kirchner’s corruption, the valuable information contained in the pivotal notebooks is likely to cast a dark shadow over next year’s presidential elections, and further hasten the break between Peronism and the now thoroughly discredited Cristina Kirchner.