miércoles, 7 de octubre de 2009

The Suitcase' Secrets

O, quizá, "The Secrets of the Suitcase" (será cuestión de preguntarle a alguien que sepa).

El punto es que, por lo visto, hay quien tradujo al inglés una entrevista que concedí al diario El Universal de Venezuela. El responsable (de la traducción, que no de la entrevista) es Mr. Robert Amsterdam: http://www.robertamsterdam.com/venezuela/2009/09/the_tale_of_the_800000_suitcase_continues.htm

Lo subo al blog por las dudas que algún anglófono navegue por estas costas y se le ocurra preguntar: Who the heck is Mr. Antonini? O algo así.

The Tale of the $800,000 Suitcase Continues

Argentine Journalist Hugo Alconada has a new book out, "The Secrets of the Valise", which investigates the Argentine-Venezuelan cover up of the $800,000 in cash that authorities seized from Guido Antonini Wilson in August of 2007, allegedly meant to help finance then-candidate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's presidential campaign.
Whether or not the book will see the light of day in Venezuela is apparently still an open question, but Alconada spoke at length with El Universal recently. Following is a translation of the interview originally published in Spanish here.
- To what extent can you prove the participation of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Hugo Chávez in the case of the briefcase with the $800,000?
-We must separate the waters. Proving Cristina Kirchner's involvement will be more difficult because the operation was either below or to the side of her. I think she had nothing to with it. This story is one of officials from her administration and her husband, Néstor, who did participate in the cover-up. On the Venezuelan side something similar happened with Chávez. I do not know if he was involved in the operation, but he did participate in the cover-up."
- How so?
-That is demonstrated in recordings, documents, papers and events that occurred during the four months after the briefcase containing the $800,000 was seized. In that period, Chávez received a letter from Antonini and the Venezuelan government, based on that letter, modified its proceedings."
- In what sense?
-It sped up. The idea was that Antonini would present himself in Buenos Aires and the story would finished in February of 2008. The letter Antonini sent to Chávez through the Venezuelan consulate in Miami, which guaranteed that a personal delivery to President Chávez because it was his friend sending it. Later, the chief of the Disip, Henry Rangel Silva, calls Antonini to assure him that his requests were accepted, which is to say the delivery, in Argentina, of $2 million and the most damaging documents from the briefcase. Now, I wonder, who, if not Chávez, could give an order like that one to the head of the Disip. The partner of Antonini, Franklin Durán, would later tell him to be careful because if you get too close to the sun it's going to burn you."
- That is the reason you give for Chávez participating in the cover-up. But is that the only part in which he was involved?
-There are other data. Recordings of people who indicate how Chávez gives orders to (PDVSA President Rafael) Ramírez to handle the payments, but warning that the cover-up should be managed by Rangel Silva. Different people, in a variety of recordings, indicate that made the ultimate decisions."
- Why then did the Antonini's trip to Argentina fail then?
-Because Antonini was between a rock and a hard place. He sensed that the North Americans could get at him at any moment before the slow reaction of the Venezuelan and Argentine governments. Remember that Antonini is a U.S. citizen and at that time he was appearing in media reports across the continent with the briefcase and money that was not his. He only claimed that it was his but without have declared the quantity to the U.S. authorities. So at any moment they could begin to demand an explanation, and furthermore the U.S. Patriot Act says that all money no declared can be investigated as a money laundering case."
- How is the case going in Argentina?
-In spite of the request to capture Antonini, and Diego and Daniel Uzcátegui nobody came to present them to Argentine justice. But the court continued seeking information and already had a copy of the recordings and transcriptions of the judge in Miami and are translating that. Also Google delivered the emails of Victoria Bereziuk, secretary of Claudio Uberti (a confidante of the Kirchners). There were messages from Bereziuk to Daniel Uzcátegui telling him not to worry, that they were not going to abandon him. Finally last week a PDVSA official in Argentina said that Antonini was in the Casa Rosada, to the contrary of what the Argentine government has said. That is, the case remains open and has some tenuous progress. How much it will advance I am unable to say."
- How is it possible that Kirchner could be aware of what was happening with the briefcase while his wife, then a presidential candidate, knew nothing?
-Because there has always been a division of tasks. I don't know if Kirchner knew about the briefcase itself. What is clear is the cover-up. On occasion the members of a team make decisions without the leader knowing about it, but the leader lets it go because he has confidence in them. In this case and in light of other campaigns, Cristina Kirchner concentrates herself on speeches, on acts, on the meetings of protocol with politicians and academics, while the management is her husband's hands. Moreover, raising campaign funds is not nor was it ever in the hands of either Kirchner. Those who were responsible for this activity were Julio de Vido, Claudio Uberti and Rodrigo Ulloa. The Kirchners let them do it because they had confidence in them. But I do not know, for example, how much they knew about Uberti, Ochoa and De Vido demanding money from Patagonian fishing enterprises."
- Do you mean that these three people had participated in previous campaigns by playing the role of fundraisers?
-Absolutely. Minister De Vido, Claudio Uberti (passenger on the flight with the briefcase and virtual Argentine ambassador in Caracas) and Rudy Ulloa, Kirchner's former driver and now the billionaire businessman in Patagonia, took charge of raising funds for the campaigns of President Néstor Kirchner in the years 2003 and 2005. And not just in these but in previous campaigns as well.
- Do you have any clues as to the how much, if any, of the $800,000 came from the Venezuelan government?
-There are 42 'rare' flights, between Argentina and Venezuela, which include officials with features similar to the Antonini case. But we do not know what might have happened. Perhaps there was nothing, perhaps there was something. There are, yes, others suspected of corruption between Argentina and Venezuela. There is even a diplomatic cable, dispatched by the person who preceded Alicia Castro, at the Argentine Embassy in Caracas, which expresses the problems with Claudio Uberti, exposing inconsistencies and missing money in a bilateral trust fund."
- What is the status of De Vido and Uberti in the Argentine justice system?
-De Vido is being investigated. Uberti is outside the government and has been indicated as lacking merit, both to absolve him as well as to accuse him formally of having committed a crime.
- In this case Kirchner is untouchable.
-For now, yes."
- For political reasons or because there is no evidence?
-There is still no evidence that formally implicates Kirchner as a protagonist, responsible for a crime in this case. What I do stress in my book is Kirchner's participation in meetings with Claudio Uberti on the morning the briefcase was seized and later, before Monday, the day of the reception in the Casa Rosada, at which Antonini was helped. But today nobody has shown how Kirchner could possibly have committed a crime."
- What has come of the life of Guido Antonini?
-He is in the United States. He continues living in his house in the Ocean Club complex at Key Biscayne. But he cannot leave the United States. If he steps into an airport he will be arrested. There is even a request for his capture by the Argentine government. I don't know if Venezuela has maintained its request for his capture."
- If the revelations in your book are based on FBI-certified recordings and Chávez is on there accepting tacitly his participation when he accused Antonini of being a "traitor", isn't there any possibility that he may be subject to U.S. justice?
-No. The justice system of the United States first accused and later made a judgment on who had acted in its territory as undercover agents. That is, for having tried to serve the emissaries of Venezuela in the United States without registering, neither as lobbyists nor as diplomats. It is a category that does not quite equate to being a spy, but it is not an indication of innocence either."
- When will the book appear in Venezuela?
-I don't know. They have told me, given the pressure that there is in Venezuela regarding editorial and publishing, that Planeta Caracas requested copies of the book and is evaluating various options. One, if they buy it in Argentina and handle the distribution. Two, if they print it in Venezuela and distribute it there. Or three, do nothing.

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