A major scandal has unfolded in Argentina involving one of the cherished and exploited banners of the two Kirchner administrations (Nestor and Cristina, 2003/2011): human rights policy and the organization of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.
As is well known the group of mothers with a white scarf over their heads was spontaneously born to challenge the Argentine military dictatorship demanding for their disappeared children and with that purpose would regularly march along Plaza de Mayo, in the heart of Buenos Aires and in front of Government House.
But now it has surfaced that an estimated 50 to 300 million US dollars handed out to the organization by the Kirchner administrations allegedly for the building of homes for the poor, the “Shared Dreams” program, have been grossly mismanaged and millions of the funds ended in Ferraris, yachts, villas, private aircraft and other extravagances.
The culprits apparently are the managers contracted to administer the funds, Sergio and Pablo Schoklender, two bright brothers who spent 14 years in jail of their life sentences (30 years) for having killed (‘massacred’) their parents in 1981.
Sergio while in jail studied law and psychology and is a solicitor and certified psychologist. He helped start the tertiary studies centre in the Devoto jail and wrote several books about his family and incarceration experiences.
Under the protection of Hebe de Bonafini head of the Mothers organization, the two brothers were guided into a new life and one of the first tasks was organizing all the data, files and archives of years of struggle for the search of thousands of disappeared from the time of the Argentine military regime.
The following step was managing the funds granted by the Kirchner administration to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and her boss Ms Bonafini to build houses for the poor.
At first it was all fine but with time complaints about the quality and materials of the housing emerged and later about costs, (doubles the market price) plus the fact labour was not paid the established rates and no contributions were made to social security among other claims, including money laundering.
However since Ms Bonafini is described as a woman of ‘character’ (authoritarian) and a hard line militant of the Kirchners and their human rights policies including jailing for life all alleged torturers, the Schoklenders enjoyed the shield of protection of the cause.
Ms Bonifani is remembered for having celebrated when the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
A few years ago the opposition brought up the issue of the “Shared Dreams” project and the Medorek company, particularly the lack of government auditing of the funds granted, but had no echo.
Now however the scandal has captured Argentine press headlines and the trail leads to Government House and the ‘generosity’ with non audited grants involving millions of US dollars, while Sergio Schoklender has resigned and finally admitted that the Medorek Company to build houses, 90% belongs to him.
Furthermore with money laundered with funds Sergio allegedly owns a private aircraft, yachts, several luxury cars such as a Ferrari and real estate including villas.
“The Mothers of Mayo have been swindled and betrayed” said the organization’s solicitor Eduardo Barcesat who added that Ms Bonafini will also act as a plaintiff in the case against the Schoklenders.
“The allegations of fraud have tarnished the image of the humanitarian organization and all its members, that is why Ms Bonafini will also act as plaintiff”, said Barcesat.
Schoklender has been banned by a judge from leaving Argentina while political leaders and members of other humanitarian organizations argue that Ms Bonafini “could not be absent or ignore what was going on”
The administration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner argues that funds are awarded to NGO for them to manage.
Foreign Affairs minister Hector ‘twitter’ Timerman one of the first to react when many fingers pointed at the domineering Hebe de Bonafini said: “whoever thinks Ms Bonafini is involved is a son of a b…”.
Buenos Aires press anticipated that the case would most probably end in the desk of a friendly magistrate where all similar (corruption) actions that can complicate the Kirchner administration have landed: federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide. As effectively has happened.