December 18, 2013
Political storm continues for De la Sota
The police scandal involving illegal drugs that exploded in Córdoba over the last few weeks has added a new chapter that puts into question the position of Govenor José Manuel de la Sota, whose party Unión por Córdoba (UPC) won the August 11 primaries by an uncomfortably narrow margin.
Whether it was some of UPC’s lawmakers pointing the finger at the national government for making up the claims or De la Sota’s Cabinet Chief Oscar González insisting that the unregistered drugs found during a raid at the anti-drug trafficking headquarters were allegedly used “to train sniffer dogs,” it is clear the governor has not managed to escape the full-fledged scandal.
“We sure felt the blow,” newly appointed police chief César Almada told local newspaper La Voz del Interior. “I must admit this is one of the worst moments I had to live through since I’ve been wearing this uniform.”
Almada was appointed by De la Sota after the resignation of Police Chief Ramón Frías, who left his post after five of his police officers were arrested on suspicion of being linked to drug trafficking.
Amid the scandal, Córdoba province Security Minister, Alejo Paredes, also presented his resignation. In his place, the governor appointed Alejandra Monteoliva, former head of the Crime and Violence Observatory of the Security department.
Also yesterday, Página/12 published an interview with police whistleblower Juan Francisco Viarnes in which the police informer revealed further details of police involvement in drug trafficking in the province.
‘Only half of the drugs are reported’
At the beginning of the month, Viarnes — who had been arrested on an unrelated crime — alleged that police chiefs were linked to drug lords and gave them information in return for being allowed to keep a portion of the drugs seized in raids.
His claims were part of an investigation that was being led by federal prosecutor Enrique Senestrari. As the investigation progressed, Viarnes decided to share his testimony to ADN, a programme aired by Córdoba’s Channel 10.
Days later, Senestrari said that “unregistered drugs” were found during a raid carried out at the anti-drug headquarters. Police chief Rafael Sosa and officers Franco Argüello, Alfredo Saine, Mario Osorio and Fabián Peralta Dáttoli were arrested and accused of conspiracy.
“There were drugs in the anti-drug division in absolutely illegal conditions, which leads us to think that they had those drugs to implicate people with crimes,” Senestrari said.
Yesterday, Viarnes claimed he was paid by the anti-drug unit to work as an informer for the provincial police forces, a task he had been performing since 2010.
Viarnes said he was forced to do “things” for local officers.
“This is the deal: half of the drugs seized are reported. They keep the other half. Half of that half goes to the drug lord that told them about it, while the dealer goes to jail,” the informer said. “But the drug lord also pays high-ranking chiefs like (Rafael) Sosa a monthly fee that never dips below the 50,000-peso mark.”
Former Security Minister Alejo Paredes “was fully aware of what was going on,” said Viarnes. But the governor, he added, “cannot say he didn’t know” that these crimes were being committed.
De la Sota looks the other way
The latest events add up to a complex political mix in the district, where De la Sota — who wants to run for president in 2015 — surely underperformed in the midterms primaries.
His top candidate for Congress, former governor Juan Schiaretti, mustered up barely above 30 percent of votes, a mere 142,000 votes ahead of contenders from the opposition Radical Party (UCR).
Moreover, part of De la Sota’s support came from San Francisco Mayor Martín Llaryora, who is aligned with Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa — and has been critical of some of the governor’s work, such as the poor condition of Córdoba’s highways.
The security affair has brought local opposition leaders to the forefront of the political arena, from Kirchnerite candidate Carolina Scotto to the head of the provincial Workers’ Leftist Front (FIT) Liliana Olivero.
Even Liliana Montero, a provincial lawmaker from Luis Juez’s Civic Front, reappeared to criticize De la Sota’s attempt to force the Legislature to approve the appointments of the new police heads — something which the provincial leader postponed for after the elections.
During the weekend, both De la Sota and Schiaretti insisted on demanding “federal funds” for the province and claimed there was “discrimination” in the budget proposed by the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration. The move is likely an attempt to divert public attention from the security scandal, which has not yet fully shown its scope.