Boudou has long had opponents in gov’t
Randazzo refused to ‘stick his neck out’for the Vice-President, tensions with Carlos Zannini
News of the bribery indictment of Vice-President Amado Boudou hit the government late Friday night as few events had done before. The indictment does not just arrive at a difficult time for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration — in the middle of its legal battle with holdout creditors — but also provides a potentially damaging blow to the ruling Victory Front (FpV) just over a year before next year’s primaries.
Boudou’s renewed legal troubles may in fact revive the internal rift over his figure, as many key Kirchnerite leaders were unhappy with Fernández de Kirchner’s decision to appoint him as her running-mate for her re-election campaign.
The 51-year-old economist, born and raised in the seaside city of Mar del Plata, was virtually unknown to the general public until Fernández de Kirchner named him Economy minister in 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis. Before that, he was the head of the ANSeS social security department — where he replaced his former boss, former Tigre mayor Sergio Massa — and was long seen as the mastermind behind the state takeover of AFJP private pension funds.
Less than a year after the main events surrounding the sale of the Ciccone firm took place, the president announced Boudou would be her running-mate for the 2011 elections, in which the head of state garnered more than 54 percent of the votes. Until mid-2011, Boudou had briefly flirted with the idea of running for Buenos Aires City mayor and had secured the support of CGT leader Hugo Moyano, now at odds with the federal administration.
Picked in part for his youthful style that could help push the president’s message of prioritizing young leadership, Boudou’s presence, often with a guitar in tow, seemed a constant during the campaign. But in early 2012, as Boudou began to be investigated for possible influence-peddling, his public appearances became less and less frequent.
As his legal troubles began to grow, Fernández de Kirchner never explicitly backed her number-two, although she did appear at his side in several government rallies, including the day after he was questioned by Judge Ariel Lijo on June 9.
Friends and enemies
Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo — seen as a possible successor to the president from the staunch Kirchnerite camp — distanced himself from the vice-president ever since the former Economy minister found himself embroiled in the Ciccone scandal.
“Would Kirchnerism stick its neck out for Boudou?” radio host Jorge Rial asked Randazzo in March, 2012.
“I can’t stick my neck out for anyone,” Randazzo replied. “We should respect the ongoing judicial process.”
Weeks later, Boudou accused Judge Daniel Rafecas, Prosecutor Carlos Rívolo and Attorney-General Esteban Righi of irregularities in the investigation and for leaking information to the press. Righi, a key legal asset for the Fernández de Kirchner administration, was forced to resign shortly thereafter.
Earlier this month, as Lijo announced plans to summon Boudou for questioning as a suspect, the Interior and Transport minister said the Ciccone case was “a very serious issue.”
“The courts will determine his responsibility” in the case, Randazzo insisted.
Randazzo is hardly the only one within the Kirchnerite administration who has developed rifts with Boudou. He has also long had a tense relationship with Legal and Technical Secretary Carlos Zannini, who is one of the most important members of the president’s administration.
Last week, journalist Hugo Alconada Mon revealed Zannini had other plans for Ciccone, as he intended the state to take over the mint company through the government-owned National Mint.
According to Alconada Mon, Zannini ordered Justice Minister Julio Alak to work on a “proposal” in order for the state to keep Ciccone, which had filed for bankruptcy but would end up in the hands of rival company Boldt.
Staunch Kirchnerites continued supporting the vice-president. Social movement leader Luis D’Elía, FpV national lawmaker Diana Conti — long-time member of the Magistrates Council — and pro-government news programme 6,7,8 insisted on saying that there was nothing clear against the Kirchnerite official and that most of the so-called Ciccone case was sponsored — or directly “made up” — by opposition media outlets.
So far this weekend, Boudou continued his official trip to Cuba while Fernández de Kirchner reportedly travelled to her home in Calafate on Friday, hours before Lijo unveiled his decision to indict the vice-president and five others.