December 7, 2013
In switch, CFK fights back
The furious response by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration to a report by the Periodismo Para Todos TV news show made it clear that the fight between the government and the Clarín Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate, will play a starring role in the runup to the October midterm elections.
The barrage of responses — including news releases, Twitter messages, radio interviews and Facebook messages — came mere days after Fernández de Kirchner said she would only discuss issues with “starring players” and not “benchwarmers.”
The president had never before acknowledged the multiple accusations of corruption emanating from Jorge Lanata’s Sunday night shows.
Yesterday, in what was the first full programme since Fernández de Kirchner’s Victory Front (FpV) lost the elections, was the exception.
This renewed fight between the CFK administration and Clarín Group’s infotainment show came nine days before a public hearing called by the Supreme Court, where Clarín and the government, as well as organizations supporting each of their interests, will argue their case over the 2009 anti-trust Media Law.
Clarín has been contesting the law since its approval, claiming that its measures blocking the number of licences it can hold and restricting its business in the cable-television sector is unconstitutional and threatens its business model.
The Seychelles ‘case’
Late Sunday night, TV host Jorge Lanata claimed that Fernández de Kirchner made a two-day stop in the Indian Ocean nation of the Seychelles during a trip to Asia last January.
The televised report suggested the stop was due to her connection with a firm in the islands that is supposedly part of an international network of shell companies used to launder money for the president and her late husband Néstor Kirchner.
Moreover, Lanata claimed that Argentina stopped considering the Seychelles a tax haven.
That same night, the presidential Chief of Staff Oscar Parrilli issued a news release calling the claims “flagrant lies.”
“The lies, the infamy, the invention of situations and events in order to discredit and disqualify the President by the media hitman of (media foe) Clarín and (Clarín CEO Héctor) Magnetto, mister Jorge Lanata, does not respect time zones, international flight arrangements or official tours made by the head of state,” said Parrilli in a news release published on both Fernández de Kirchner’s official website and the head of state’s Facebook page.
13 hours or two days?
Parrilli said that the stop — announced in the Official Gazette — did not last two days, but 13 hours, enough time for the president’s airplane to refuel and the pilots to rest in the midst of a long journey.
Last night, Lanata appeared in Clarín’s flagship Channel 13 next to other popular TV hosts, where he admitted the president did not stay for two days in the archipelago.
“Even if she stayed there for 13 hours, it would be interesting if the president told the people what she did there during those 13 hours,” the TV journalist said.
According to the national government, the presidential tour included the cities of Havana, Abu Dhabi, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
On January 21, Fernández de Kirchner began her flight back to Argentina. The plane landed in the Mahe airport, Seychelles, at 3:50am local time. After completing the minimum rest period for flight crew, the president took off that same airport at 5:25pm, “which means she was there for 13 hours and 30 minutes,” the official explained.
“This is for the Guinness (Book of World Records): Argentina has a president who signed a decree to announce she was going to move ‘corrupt Kirchnerite money’ to a tax haven,” the chief-of-staff wrote with evident irony.
An urgent reply
The news release was badly written and contained several spelling mistakes, suggesting it was an urgent response by the official.
“Clarín has been threatening democracy for years,” said Parrilli. “It has been threatening politicians, officials, artists, union leaders, soccer directors, judges ... In Clarín and in (news channel) Todo Noticias you’re sentenced, convicted, corrupt or uncorrupt, and whatever they say, it’s the gospel truth.”
Finally, the official called Lanata a “media hitman,” stating he had no doubts that the CEO of the Clarín Group Héctor Magnetto “is in fact handling the campaign” of Renewal Front candidate Sergio Massa, who beat the ruling Victory Front in the Buenos Aires province at the primaries, and that the results of the August 11 election “made him believe he could take it all.”
AFIP also denies report
Compared to Parrilli’s rampage, the AFIP tax bureau denial ended up being a sober piece of work.
Yesterday, the office led by Ricardo Etchegaray issued a news release denying Periodismo Para Todos’ claim that the Argentine legislation did not considered the Seychelles a tax haven.
According to the official, a decree passed in 1998 and another one from 2000 created a list of 88 tax havens — and the Seychelles appears at number 66.
“Anyone can access the list by entering the very official website of AFIP,” Echegaray explained.
Born in the opposition ranks
Lanata’s report was based on an accusation made by Broad Progressive Front (FAP) national lawmaker Gerardo Milman — which in turn was filed after the Official Gazette reported that the president would be staying in the city of Victoria.
“The only thing we did was read the Official Gazette claiming the president was going to be there for two days. The suspicion (raised by Lanata) was mounted on the secrecy” regarding what the president was doing there, GEN head Margarita Stolbizer said.
“It would be easier if (Fernández de Kirchner) said she was there to rest, but the hiding of information ends in strengthening the suspicion,” the congresswoman stated.
Stolbizer also confirmed that the Clarín Group is recovering some of the allegations regularly made by opposition figureheads and turning them into popular “news” pieces.
“Lanata has put in everyday language, and on broadcast TV, a series of allegations that we’ve been talking about for some time now,” she concluded.
Herald staff with DyN