An Argentine investigative journalist program on alleged corruption involving former president Nestor Kirchner and his business cronies had a greater audience than a football match of Boca Juniors, the country’s most popular team disputing the Argentine premier league.
Jorge Lanata and his program ‘Journalism for All’ has been airing for several weeks now, every Sunday a well documented program exposing a public works contractor Larazo Baez, who only ten years ago was a simple bank cashier but now monopolizes all public-works in the province of Santa Cruz, extreme south of Argentina which also happens to be the political turf of the Kirchner couple.
The government is becoming increasingly furious with the program that not only includes Mr Baez, but alleged shipping of ‘bags of money’ which from Government House in Buenos Aires were either flown to Rio Gallegos or to overseas tax havens.
As part of its reaction to the exposures, the government decided that the evening matches involving Boca Juniors and River Plate, another very popular team had to be played beginning at 22:00 when the Lanata program is aired.
In Argentina under the Kirchner governments’, transmission of football matches, even those involving the most popular teams, has become a government business and are aired free, and thus can also decide the time the games are played.
However according to primary audience ratings, Lanata competed successfully against the government and football with a clear eight rating points ahead, and when the match was over (Boca lost 0-4 to the current leader of the Premier League, Newell’s) the difference kept increasing.
“Journalism for All” reached 21 points with Lanata dressed as a football player, while the Boca match in Rosario only managed 13 points at its best.
The change of timetable ordered by the government took place even when the clubs, security forces, football commentators and others involved warned about how late the match would end, with winter coming and very serious crime challenges as in all Argentine main cities.
All along the match Lanata’s program was well ahead and when the match was over rating zoomed to 29 points.
In this program Lanata exposed how a vault in one of the houses of Baez, thought to contain millions in cash, delicate documentation and weapons was rapidly converted into a wine cellar.
The detail was that one of the craftsmen involved in the dismounting of safes and mounting of the new scenario apparently feared consequences of what he was doing and for security reasons with his cell phone took all the pictures possible. He even filmed where the contents were transported: to a farm house 70 kilometres away from Rio Gallegos.
Earlier this week Baez invited journalists and bragged about all the ‘nonsense’ about his vault, ‘it’s a wine cellar’ he insisted. ‘Look for yourselves’.
But Lanata has the over 200 mobile phone photos and also had an undercover team check when other ‘bags’ were withdrawn late at night by vans belonging to Baez, from a former residence of Nestor Kirchner in Rio Gallegos.
The main public works companies in Santa Cruz figure under the name of Baez, but given the closeness of him with the Kirchner family and particularly with the deceased president Nestor Kirchner, and given his way of making business, it is believed that the companies really belong to the former leader.
Lanata ended the program sarcastically addressing Baez and congratulating him for having made a fortune faster than Henry Ford or Bill Gates, since in ten years from simple bank employee he has admitted having the Santa Cruz four main public works companies, several farms totalling 400.000 hectares of land, properties, a fleet of black Porsche, BMW and Hyundai vans (pictures shown), plus the ‘vaults’ the exact content of which is unknown.
Lanata dedicated a brief chapter to Argentine judges and prosecutors, most of them reluctant to take the case, mainly apparently because several of the cases have been transferred to Rio Gallegos courts where all of them are known to be ‘Kirchnerite’ appointees, some of them even with direct links to Baez and his Patagonian empire.