December 4, 2013
Islands in the shade
Action and reaction do indeed seem to have been equal and opposite in the case of journalist Jorge Lanata’s Sunday night television programme on President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s stopover earlier this year in the Seychelles (the first of Lanata’s various accusations to provoke a government response) but perhaps “a plague on both your houses” is the best response. This sterile dispute almost boils down to quibbling over the length of stopover since neither could the presidential presence be denied nor did Lanata spell out or document any specific charge (apart from claiming that the Seychelles were subsequently struck off the AFIP revenue bureau’s list of tax havens, an accusation convincingly denied by AFIP yesterday). Lanata’s spectacular exposés this year have rarely been original — thus suspicions of businessman Lázaro Báez as a government proxy were first taken to court by opposition deputy Elisa Carrió in 2004 when already far from new while the Seychelles issue was picked up by another opposition deputy Gerardo Milman six months ago — although true to his media group’s attitude that nothing is ever news until they break it, no matter how late (thus behaving as if they were indeed a monopoly). This time Lanata’s case seems rasher than before — thus the most concrete speculation involving the Seychelles appeared to be the link between a Báez courier’s firm and a Nevada company with a branch in the Indian Ocean tax haven.
Not that the CFK administration helped its case by passing from the previous extreme of total silence to presidential chief-of-staff Oscar Parrilli’s furious statement calling Lanata a “media hired killer” with such non-answers as the impossibility of speaking ill of the dead in the case of late ex-president Néstor Kirchner (which would exempt Arturo Illia, Juan Perón, Mahatma Gandhi or Adolf Hitler from criticism). Such basic errors as misinforming her island stay as two days do not justify a barrage which (in an infinitely more trivial context) mirrors the 1976-83 military regime’s fatal error of applying state terrorism against guerrillas. Lanata’s case was flimsy — even a minimal CFK presence on the Seychelles might seem unwise in the light of her fiery international rhetoric against tax havens but an extreme application of that criterion would make it hard for her to visit, say, Switzerland. Such charges are best refuted by AFIP’s dryly professional confirmation that the Seychelles were never off its radar screens as a tax haven.
Let us hope that the midterm campaign can stay an electoral contest between political candidates and not degenerate into a government-media brawl.