Friday, May 24, 2024

ARGENTINA | 23-04-2024 12:11

Milei government blocks reparation payments to victims of state terrorism

Justice Minister Mariano Cúneo Libarona slams “festival of payments” as he orders a comprehensive audit of reparations made to victims of state terrorism under 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

President Javier Milei’s government has announced that it will halt compensation payments to exiled victims of state terrorism during Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship as it carries out a comprehensive audit to detect "cases with irregularities." 

Justice Minister Mariano Cúneo Libarona confirmed the move as he claimed the scheme was subject to widespread corruption in a late-night television interview broadcast on Monday. 

Describing the reparations system as a "festival of payments," he claimed the alleged graft “could not have happened without political support."

Via a government resolution (Nº RS-2024-40979055-APN-MJ), Cúneo Libarona has ordered “a comprehensive audit of all the requests made under the laws of patrimonial reparation for victims of state terrorism,” said the Milei administration.

“The Ministry decided to carry out this audit because different cases have been detected with irregularities in the processing, granting and/or payment," the Justice Ministry said in a press release published on social media.

The decision to audit all requests stems from a ruling handed down in a case known as  'Martínez Moreira, Adrián y otros s/defraudación, falsificación de documentos públicos y asociación ilícita.'

In it “a group of people were prosecuted for the crimes of illicit association, falsification of public and private documents, use of public documents, false testimony, false denunciation, fraud and defrauding the national public administration," the executive reported.

Cúneo Libarona announced that "in turn, there are other criminal cases being processed for irregularities arising from duplicate payments or payments made to people who lack documentation to support their request.”

The move is the latest government intervention into human rights policies. Since taking office last December, President Milei has reopened debate about the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, calling for a “complete memory” of the conflict. 

The libertarian leader has questioned estimates from human rights groups as to the number of disappeared under state terrorism and demanded compensation for the victims of left-wing terrorism and guerrilla violence.

Reparations scheme

The reparations programme came into being after a number of victims initiated lawsuits against the Argentine state.

Under the existing scheme, which is underpinned by six national laws enacted between 1991 and 2013, victims of the last civil-military dictatorship are provided with economic compensations and pensions. 

Those who can apply for reparation are, among others, persons who suffered a forced disappearance, relatives of those killed by state terrorism, and persons born during the deprivation of liberty of their mothers, or who as minors were detained, as long as the detention and disappearance was for political reasons.

During last year’s election campaign, Victoria Villarruel, Milei’s vice-president, had hinted at her desire to audit the compensation scheme. Two years ago, Federal Judge Ariel Lijo (who has been nominated by President Milei for a Supreme Court vacancy) investigated a number of Uruguayans who had received payments from the Argentine justice system.

Concerns about irregularities pre-date the Milei administration. 

Former human rights secretary Horacio Pietragalla Corti, who served in the Peronist government led by former president Alberto Fernández (2015-2019), presented his portfolio as a plaintiff in August 2021 after gathering information about alleged fraudulent manoeuvres involving fake relatives of the disappeared. 

Five individuals were later prosecuted in late 2023 as members of a criminal organisation that provided false testimony and defrauded the public administration.

The previous Peronist government (2019-2023)  initiated legal action and investigations against "gangs" specialised in obtaining such reparations.


‘This is fun for me’

After initially announcing the measure on social media, Cúneo Libarona gave a television interview to LN+ on Monday night, during which he vowed to clamp down on those who had abused the system.

The Justice Ministry will move against "people who, with false documents, false witnesses and false forms, invented and claimed to be victims and who received more than 150,000 dollars,” he claimed, alleging more than 100 corrupt cases in total.

Cúneo Libarona reported that the audit will cover 7,996 compensation payments in total, as well as the cases of 14,400 exiled people. 

"There I have a lot of fraud about who was there and who wasn't. There are 350 lawsuits for 100,000 dollars. There are 350 judgements of 100,000 dollars each," he insisted to LN+. 

"There are a lot of righteous [people] and a lot of sinners, what I want is to discover the gang of sinners. I want to see the files, this is fun for me and I am very passionate about it," he declared.

Villarruel, who is close to the military, called on her social media accounts to "audit the spurious business of human rights" and "review the millions of dollars in compensation that were given."

Pietragalla observed that the previous government had denounced corruption and said the complete suspension of payments "is a strategy to not give answers to the current files, to delay the obligations of the State, to not recognise the victims of State terrorism and to taint [with] a mantle of suspicion our administration."


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