BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – A diplomatic wire written by an official of Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Relations supports the allegations of a “parallel embassy” in Caracas, Venezuela that was involved in commerce between the countries, according to the Argentine daily La Nación.
The wire was written by Eduardo Sigal, the deputy secretary of Economic Integration for the Americas and Mercosur at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, on June 25. It stated the Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services excluded two Argentine companies from business deals in favor of firms that had a better relationship with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration.
Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Relations, said La Nación misled the public when it published the story, according to media reports.
Sigal’s wire, which was addressed to his bosses at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, supports allegations by Eduardo Sadous, Argentina’s former ambassador to Caracas, who said Argentine companies wanting to do business with Hugo Chávez’s government had to pay bribes of 15% to 20% of the commercial transaction.
The kickbacks were collected by officials of the Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services, headed by Minister Julio De Vido, reported journalist Hugo Alconada Mon of La Nación.
“Before Sadous’ allegations uncovered this scandal, it was known that Julio De Vido had a parallel agenda to the embassy in Venezuela and had opened an office at the Torre Europa in Caracas,” Alconada Mon said.
Sigal’s boss, Alfredo Chiaradía, the secretary of Commerce and International Economic Relations, described the wire as “a nuclear bomb,” according to the Argentine daily Clarín.
“What is important about this allegation [implied in the wire] is that it was made in the framework of a case being investigated by Argentina’s justice system of the alleged illegal association headed by former President Néstor Kirchner,” said Congresswoman Patricia Bullrich of the Coalition Civic party on her organization’s website. “It [the implied allegation on the wire] accuses members of the national government of having benefited from bilateral exports and creating a business relationship parallel to the Ministry of Foreign Relations.”
Sadous, who served as Argentina’s ambassador in Caracas from October 2002 to May 2005, was subpoenaed to testify before the Lower House Committee on Foreign Relations on June 23 and confirmed his allegations, according to Clarín.
Rosendo Fraga, an Argentine political analyst, said Sadous’s intention to testify before the Lower House angered Fernández and prompted Jorge Taiana to resign as minister of foreign relations.
“Two essential motives are seen in analyzing Jorge Taiana’s resignation,” Fraga said. “On the one hand, there has been a lack of attention by the executive branch to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The Kirchners’ administration dealt with foreign relations without giving the Ministry of Foreign Relations its assigned role. On the other hand, Taiana’s decision to authorize Sadous to testify before the Lower House confirms his allegations.”
Meantime, the government denies the existence of a so-called “parallel embassy,” saying it’s an invention of the press and supported by the opposition, according to Clarín.
“Under no circumstances [is there] a ‘parallel embassy,’” Eduardo Sigal told the Argentine daily La Capital. “The wire exists, what does not exist is the way it’s being interpreted.”
Sigal, who has been reprimanded by Timerman for sending the wire, said he was “surprised” by what was published by “some media to analyze a matter that is quite simple and that has to do with a request by two Argentine businesses to be included in the restructuring program of Venezuela’s electric power sector,” according to La Capital.