Lawyers Maximiliano Rusconi and Gabriel Palmeiro did what the prosecutors in the trial for the Santa Cruz road works did not do: they went through what the witnesses said, almost one by one, over the three years and three months of the trial. With that simple mechanic they destroyed the bases of the accusation. Those witnesses, among other things, maintained that the roads were well built, that there were no sections of roads paid for and not built, that the delays were normal and in general were caused by oil union roadblocks or because the land had not been expropriated. through which those routes had to pass.
The enumerated witnesses insisted that the arrears were not convenient for the construction companies at all because they paralyzed their personnel and machinery, that the redeterminations due to inflation were also bad, and above all, that the construction companies located in Santa Cruz -such as that of Lázaro Báez – they had important competitive advantages because they had all the machinery and personnel located in the area, in addition to having knowledge of the problems -for example, where to get the stone-, knowledge that other companies did not have. Rusconi and Palmeiro emphasized that most of the statements they mentioned were from witnesses called by the prosecution.
A prosecutor’s plea unrelated to the trial
“The development of the trial was a via crucis for the prosecutors – summarized Rusconi -. Therefore, the argument of doctors Luciani and Mola had no relation to the trial. Not even with the law.”
The lawyers listed the statements of numerous witnesses, but also reported that these witnesses were asked if anyone had ever suggested that they change something in favor of Austral Construcciones or other companies. “They always told us no, but that it was also impossible, because everything was going to be reviewed later in many instances.”
That explained, for example, David Bahamondez, in charge of calculating the price redetermination of the works. The official affirmed that, at the time of the governments of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, the Secretary of Commerce was Guillermo Moreno, so the inflation rates of the Indec were low and the businessmen did not benefit from the redeterminations that were made, precisely, by the official indices. Prosecutors said otherwise, that it was a big deal. But they did not provide any evidence.
The main contributions of the witnesses
Rusconi mentioned that prosecutors disliked most of the testimony. The engineer Justo Pastor Romero he not only said that the works were well done. At the same time, he explained that the routes were later abandoned during the government of Mauricio Macri, with a huge loss for the state.
Leandro Garcia, auditor appointed by the Together for Change government, stated that he did not see anything anomalous except for the roadblocks and union claims that existed in the province. “Every time there was an oil conflict, they cut off the routes,” he described.
The witnesses explained that the works were not carried out by Vialidad Nacional but by the Province of Santa Cruz because it had technicians and personnel, but Vialidad Nacional did not. And that was the case across the country.
the inspector Marisa Re He affirmed that the delays were the usual ones throughout the country, with special problems in Santa Cruz, which is “large, distant and with few routes. But supervision was carried out and I never received instructions to benefit anyone.”
Businessman Charles Wagneran enemy of Báez given that the Santa Cruz native never joined the Chamber of Construction – testified that Austral won tenders because it had great competitive advantages, with the personnel, the machines in Santa Cruz and the knowledge of the province.
Rusconi and Palmeiro cited the statements of dozens of witnesses.
The absurdity of the “Clean everything” plan
Palmeiro swept away another argument from the prosecutors who called “clean everything” a resolution signed by Julio De Vido on November 25, 2015, that is, 15 days before the transfer of the government to the macrismo. The former minister’s defense showed that it had nothing to do with Santa Cruz but rather was a resolution for all areas of the Ministry of Planning throughout the country, a total of some 50 dependencies, which were asked to prepare everything for the transfer .
“At that time -explained Palmeiro- it was already known that the government of Mauricio Macri was not going to continue with the Territorial Strategic Plan, that is, they would not continue with the works. And that was what happened. With the particularity that the prosecutors attribute the abandonment of the routes to De Vido or to those accused in this case and not, as the witnesses said, to the administration of the government that arrived, which canceled all the agreements with all the provinces, not only with Santa Cruz”.
The abuse of illicit association
As expected, Rusconi dedicated a chapter of the plea to attack the abuse of the figure of illicit association, a crime created to combat unions and then armed organizations.
“The Court has already said that illicit association does not apply to anything, but is in the chapter of public order and aims at social peace. These are facts that, if they had materialized, would have affected the democratic system. With this crime, that of illicit association, the leaders of the International Workers Association were arrested in Argentina. Let’s not go back to the worst times.”
As is logical, the lawyers requested the acquittal of De Vido before “the absolute absence of testimonies to support the accusation. That has already been proven. It is an absolutely non-existent, weak evidentiary framework”.
In the almost 11 hours of pleading, Rusconi and Palmeiro insisted over and over again that not a single fact in which De Vido was involved was mentioned, there is no email, no chat, no witness, no element that would show any address of the works for the benefit of Austral Construcciones. In the 39 months of trial nobody spoke of De Vido and neither of Cristina Kirchner.
Even so, the defenders expressed little hope that the court would decide impartially and mentioned that justice is not only used for political persecution but also, in combination with the media aligned with the right, “for the lynching of opponents.”