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  HOME | Argentina

Mushrooming Spy Scandal in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES – Revelations of illegal wiretapping by a former cop have sparked a war of words between the city’s conservative mayor and the center-left government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.

Federal Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez (no relation to the president) said Thursday that Mauricio Macri “has other no other way out” than to resign, likening the mayor’s conduct to that of U.S. President Richard Nixon during Watergate.

The illegal wiretaps were arranged by former police inspector Jorge “Fino” Palacios and Macri, Anibal Fernandez said.

Palacios and Macri, according to the Cabinet chief, were “working on a kind of small business in which what was done was to carry out telephone intercepts to sell them (the tapes) later to the highest bidder.”

Just back from a visit to Madrid, the mayor and presidential hopeful held a press conference Thursday to denounce the Fernandez government as “irresponsible” and corrupt.

Macri, the scion of an industrial dynasty and erstwhile director of Argentina’s most popular soccer club, Boca Juniors, also vowed to press ahead with deployment of a new municipal police force whose organization the mayor originally entrusted to Palacios, now under arrest.

Argentina is one of several Latin American nations where law enforcement is in the hands of the national and provincial governments.

The scandal erupted last month, when it was learned that Palacios tapped the phone of a relative of one of the 85 people killed in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community organization AMIA.

Palacios, himself facing charges for an alleged cover-up in the AMIA case, stepped down as head of Macri’s new Metropolitan Police shortly after the damaging revelations became public.

The uproar grew in recent days after the judge overseeing the wiretapping investigation, Norberto Oyarbide, said that Palacios’ private security firm spied on politicians, business executives, union officials and journalists.

Citing evidence found on the computers seized from Palacios’ company, the judge said he suspected the espionage operation also targeted President Fernandez and husband Nestor Kirchner, who preceded his wife as head of state.

Oyarbide likewise found links between Palacios and Metropolitan Police deputy chief Osvaldo Chamorro – dismissed Tuesday by Macri – and Ciro James, a former federal cop and Macri aid.

The judge said Thursday he did not expect to subpoena Macri in connection with the case.

Macri decided to create the Metropolitan Police after he failed to convince the Fernandez government to transfer to his administration’s control the Federal Police units based in the city, along with their $250 million annual operating budget.

While Macri and his political allies have hammered the national government on the issue of public safety, several Supreme Court justices complained of media-manipulated hysteria about crime and said that statistics don’t bear out claims of worsening delinquency. EFE

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