Monday, June 24, 2024

ARGENTINA | 30-05-2024 09:24

Justice system freezes assets of leftist picket leader Eduardo Belliboni

Assets of Polo Obrero leader Eduardo Belliboni, who is under investigation for alleged welfare fraud and embezzlement, frozen by federal judge.

Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello on Wednesday ordered the freezing of the assets of Polo Obrero leader Eduardo Belliboni, who is under investigation for alleged welfare fraud and embezzlement.

The move against the leftist social and picket leader is part of a government clampdown on welfare fraud and what it calls the ‘business of poverty’.

Casanello has asked for a lien to be placed on the assets of Belliboni, 64, a high-profile picket leader and leader of Polo Obrero, a Trotskyist social movement which has been at the forefront of demonstrations against various administrations for years. 

Belliboni was summoned by the courts on Monday and will appear in June before Casanello, along with some 20 leaders of soup kitchens and social movements who are often managers of public aid programmes in a country where half the population lives in poverty.

The summons followed a series of raids in mid-May, in line with the government's intention to ‘audit’ social assistance and its alleged abuses. It alleges that in one audit, some 47 percent of soup kitchens registered with the government either did not exist or could not be located.

In the case of Polo Obrero, documents filed in court by government departments allege that only 30 percent of the 360 million pesos (US$395,000) placed into the organisation's hands between 2020 and 2023 as part of the ‘Potenciar Trabajo’ social aid programme were properly accounted for.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Polo Obrero claimed that the funds “were fully accounted for to the Social Development Ministry, in the framework of the programmes for which they were allocated.”

The document, which denounces a “policy of persecution” on the part of Milei administration, states that the government is moving “against independent and militant organisations.”

“We have nothing to hide,” said Belliboni, who considers the case to be “a smokescreen to hide the fact that the economy is collapsing” and that thousands of jobs are being lost every day.

In the framework of the austerity programme implemented by Milei's government since he took office last December, chronic inflation is slowing down but the recession is worsening.

Belliboni said he will take advantage of his summons before the judge to file a complaint against the authorities' holding up of tonnes of food aid in warehouses.

Judge Casanello himself ordered the immediate distribution of this aid on Monday, but the government, which has filed an appeal, claims that these are “reserves” dedicated “to emergencies and catastrophes.”

On Wednesday, a demonstration was held in front of a warehouse where this food is stored in Villa Martelli, a suburb of Buenos Aires.



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