Argentine public opinion still hasn't been able to overcome last week's events: a civil engineer who has been working for the Kirchner couple since 1991 and managed some 130bn dollars in public works in that time is locked in a psychiatric ward awaiting charges after he was discovered trying to hide almost 9 million dollars cash and jewels in a rather secretive convent.
Jose Lopez direct boss and former protector, ex president Cristina Fernandez published an open letter saying she didn't provide the cash bundles, and that the investigation should be directed away from her family and Kirchnerites and geared to contractors, suppliers and other characters who tempted the engineer that still can't believe he's in jail and asked for cocaine when taken to be questioned by a judge.
The most rabid Kirchnerite followers declared it was another ploy to try and tarnish the image of the former president and her successful administrations and over a decade long of social justice and distribution.
The more rational followers, including lawmakers and former officials of the lady's governments and knowing the extremely close relation between the ex president and the ex Public Works funds manager and paymaster, feel shell shocked: some have taken advantage to abandon her political grouping, the largest in Congress, others are meditating about the future and even some of the intellectuals who tried to write a history and political ideology of the so-called Argentine K renaissance, have said that instead of an innocent, I don't know letter the Lady should apologize.
The situation is beautiful music for president Mauricio Macri who with a limited congressional representation, can only prosper and advance legislation and his program with a divided opposition. Plus the discredit or her predecessor in the Pink House.
But probably the most interesting fact of the attempt to hide the bags full of money and the feeble reaction from the Lady, is that finally the rumors about the tens of millions of dollars (or hundreds) that Kirchnerism allegedly skimmed, are becoming true and even the scam mechanisms used to collect and hide the money. Witnesses are surfacing willing to talk about their piece meal knowledge of the big picture that will help build the puzzle, although it must be said the investigations will be done by many of the magistrates who for years had received some of the complaints but did not seem to advance on them.
The scheme apparently was quite simple, Lopez managed the bids, the contracts, the money advances, just how he had being doing when he started next to the Kirchners in Santa Cruz province. Obviously control of works done, accomplished, quality was a second issue, what mattered was the list of about ten contractors and a short list who were the few chosen to receive the generous funds from the Argentine treasury for the public works contracts. Some names have emerged such as Santa Cruz king contractor Lazaro Baez and Cristobal Lopez. What is not yet clear is whether the contractors paid their dues or some of those privileged companies were actually joint-ventures with Kirchner family members.
Anyhow another unexpected twist of the macro scam is why Lopez insisted in dumpling the money-full bags into a convent, with just three ageing nuns in a quite suburb of Buenos Aires province.
In effect the Our Lady of Fatima convent in the neighborhood of General Rodriguez, with the only paved road leading to it was until last April under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Hector Ruben Di Monte, better known as the K' Bishop, and apparently host to many reunions and even parties with guests arriving in expensive discreet cars. Neighbors are turning up to tell their stories about the intense traffic on some weekends.
But the Archbishop passed away in April and earlier this year the convent walls were topped with barbed wire, and strategically located curtains that impede looking inside when the gate is opened.
The rest is speculation and left to the imagination, until Justice determines otherwise. But in the meantime it has emerged that a hidden safe has been found in a lavish property of Lopez, one of seven he had distributed in Buenos Aires, Santa Cruz and Tucuman from where the Superiority”, as his staff had to address him, was originally from. Besides there is a several hours time-lap and it's not clear where and what the suspect did from when he left his home, with food on the table ready for a meal, obviously in a hurry, and the early morning when a neighbor of the convent called the police there was someone trying to steal his vehicle and came across a desperate Lopez.
Likewise the ageing nuns (one of them in 94) said ”the gentleman was most nervous, and told us he wanted to leave the bags (with money) which he had stolen and collected for the convent and our religious order.
It has also emerged from the Argentine Construction Chamber that both Cristina Fernandez and her Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido were well aware of what was going on.
Cristina and De Vido knew about the racketeering with public works. We from the Construction Chamber met with them on more than an occasion and told them there were privileged companies when it came to be paid, claimed Juan Chediak, head of the chamber.
Chediak went further and said the system was known as sweet solidarity, or happy payments chain, and referred to a group of ten contractors that during the Kirchner couple years were privileged with contracts and advance payments, among them Lazaro Baez, Cristobal Lopez, Electroingenieria, Rovella Carranza, Panedile and others with direct links to the powerful couple.
Another member of the chamber from the province of Entre Rios, Victor Pietroboni revealed that they would ring from Public Works office and tell us not to bid for certain contracts since they had already been awarded to Lazaro Baez. The mechanism was simple: these companies would do a job that cost x and would be paid 10x.
Baez is a gangster and has done great damage to the Argentine construction industry” underlined Pietroboni.
Finally it must said that a repented Kirchnerite revealed that Lopez, the former public works paymaster was included in the list of candidates to the Mercosur Parliament, because Cristina Fernandez insisted that her loyal butler had to have lawmaker immunity, and in effect he was a member of that diffuse forum.