Argentina ex-president Macri charged with espionage on 400 journalists

Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) has called for an investigation into former president Mauricio Macri  that he has spied on more than 400 journalists, and officials have released a document they say is evidence of the claim.

Dozens of foreign journalists, including several representing AFP, appeared on a list of people to be investigated in relation to the G20 and World Trade Organization (WTO) summits held in Buenos Aires in recent years.The complaint was lodged on Friday and the evidences were expected to be presented on Monday.

Around 100 academics, business people and prominent figures from civil society also appeared on the list.Ten of those listed were staffers or freelancers who worked for The Associated Press. Also listed were journalists for international media such as Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP and CNN.
The documents relating to the case were found in three dossiers named “2017”, “G20 Journalists” and “Miscellaneous”, in a safe in the office of the AFI’s former director of counterintelligence. Buenos Aires hosted the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in 2017 and the 13th G20 Summit a year later.

“The investigation into the journalists was straightforward. They dug up information from social media and that way built an ideological and political profile,” said the source.

The complaint was lodged by Cristina Caamano, who has been tasked by center-left President Alberto Fernandez to carry out an audit of AFI as part of a reorganization process.

According to the complaint, the profile information included “political preferences, social media posts, sympathy for feminist groups, or political and/or cultural content among others.” The comments included whether or not “they were critical of the current government” of Macri, who held office from 2015-2019.

Other comments referred to “showing affinity for Peronism,” Fernandez’s political movement that was in opposition at the time, “supporting the government,” “asking on Facebook for the liberation of Lula,” the jailed leftist former Brazilian president who has since been released, or if they “signed a petition for legalized abortion.”

Caamano has asked for an investigation to be opened against Gustavo Arribas, the former AFI director, and his deputy Silvina Majdalani, as well as Macri as the person “responsible for setting strategic guidelines and the objectives of national intelligence policy.”

The complaint states that the background checks on journalists were “neither ordered nor authorized by any magistrate.” The foreign correspondents association hit out at Macri for the “inadmissible” investigations, while two Argentine press unions also blasted the former administration.

The dossier relating to the WTO conference was more exhaustive and included information on business people, trade unionists and social leaders, listing personal details such as salaries and wealth.

It’s not the first time Macri has been investigated for alleged spying. He is currently under investigation for spying during his presidency on political allies and opponents, including former president Cristina Kirchner and Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta. He was also prosecuted for spying while mayor of Buenos Aires, a post he held from 2007-2015, but that case was dismissed two weeks after he assumed the presidency.

Legal authorities have opened numerous investigations into alleged corruption involving former President Cristina Fernández, who is now vice president. Those have been stalled in part by difficulties in holding hearings under pandemic restrictions.

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