Argentinean Government Denies Spying on Presidential Hopefuls
On October 20, two Argentinean federal judges received formal complaints accusing the government of spying on more than 200 high-profile individuals, including two of the three major presidential candidates: Mauricio Macri of the Let’s Change coalition, and the Renewal Front’s Sergio Massa.
Representatives Laura Alonso and Patricia Bullrich, of the Republican Proposal party (PRO), filed the complaints with the Supreme Court of Justice, who then notified District Attorney Ramiro González to initiate an investigation.
According to the complaint, an alleged member of the intelligence services contacted Alonso and provided her a list of more than 200 politicians, judges, journalists, and businessmen currently under illegal surveillance by the Federal Agency of Intelligence (AFI). The complaint maintains that the agency procured information via illegal wiretapping of phones and through the interception and storage of data from WhatsApp and text messages, computer instant messages, and emails.
The complaint also alleges that the illegal surveillance is ongoing and, in addition to monitoring private conversations, allows the government to follow the location and personal movement of journalists and officials whose political views are not aligned with those of the current administration.
Alonso and Bullrich claim the operations continue out of two locations in Buenos Aires: the top floor of a building located at the intersection of Avenue Entre Ríos and Avenue San Juan, and at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Investigations for the Defense.
In addition to opposition candidates Macri and Massa, who currently rank second and third, respectively, in presidential polls, three other presidential candidates found their names on the list. However, the leading presidential candidate and sitting governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli of the Front for Victory coalition (FPV), did not appear.
With only days remaining until the presidential and gubernatorial elections, the news quickly became fodder on the campaign trail. Gubernatorial candidate of Buenos Aires province, Aníbal Fernández (FPV), questioned the timing and intentions of the filing.
“This is one of the many fabrications these two delegates have made (in the past).… They are not considered the most serious of people to present a complaint of this manner,” said the current Cabinet chief of the Cristina Kirchner administration during a daily scheduled press conference on Tuesday.
It remains to be seen if the court filing will have any impact on the presidential election, which polls suggest is headed for a tight run-off. Argentinean law stipulates that the winning candidate must obtain at least 40 percent of the vote, or win by more than 10 percentage points.
Polls currently show Scioli in the lead with approximately 38 to 42 percent, while Macri trails with approximately 26 to 30 percent, subject to the margin of error. A run-off is believed to significantly improve Macri’s chances of winning, as the Massa vote will likely shift to the Let’s Change candidate.
However, Martín Robles, a political analyst for one of the top consulting firms in the country, believes the impact will be minimal at best.
“Aside from the time constraints for the news (the complaint) to spread, as well as the concerns over the legal verifiability of the complaint, Scioli already has the majority of his voter base locked up, whereas Macri and Massa still have work to do,” Robles tells the PanAm Post. “The chances this impacts Scioli in any meaningful way are slim.”
Other notable names surfacing on the list are the Supreme Court President Ricardo Lorenzetti; President Cristina Kirchner’s former Chief of Staff Alberto Fernández; the former head of intelligence (formerly known as SIDE), Héctor Icazuriaga; the former Commander of the Army, César Milani; and CEO Héctor Magnetto of Grupo Clarín, Argentina’s largest media conglomerate.