Amid mounting political tensions in Argentina, the nation’s former president, Mauricio Macri, testified in federal court, where he was questioned for allegedly spying on the relatives of the crew of an underwater ship that sank four years ago and killed everyone on board.
Dozens of cheering supporters, as well as members of the opposition, gathered outside the field Thursday in the city of Dolores, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the capital, Buenos Aires.
Macri, 62, was cited by Martín Bava, federal judge for his role in the alleged espionage of the families of the 44 crew members who died after the sinking of the submarine ARA San Juan in 2017. His remains were discovered a year later and all on board they were declared dead.
The development came as the nation battled growing poverty amid an economic crisis exacerbated by the pandemic. Argentina is also just a few weeks away from the legislative elections scheduled for November 14. The vote is expected to serve as a memorandum on the administration of President Alberto Fernández, a center-left leader.
Observers have said that Argentina’s ruling coalition, now in its second year in office, is trying to bounce back from a resounding defeat in last month’s primary elections, where the opposition won most of the districts.
“If they believe that with their aggressions, disqualifications, slander and their permanent obsession with me they are going to diminish my commitment to Argentines and with the defense of our values, they are very wrong,” said Macri, who was president between 2015 and 2019, said in a tweet.
Macri, whose center-right Cambiemos party is one of the three parties that make up the opposition coalition Together for Change, is being accused of ordering the nation’s intelligence agency to spy on the families of the submarine’s victims between 2017. and 2018. If found guilty, he could face between three and 10 years in prison, according to local media reports.
The espionage charges date back to 2020, when Cristina Caamano, director of the Federal Intelligence Agency, filed a criminal complaint claiming to have discovered evidence showing that the relatives of the deceased crew were being spied on during Macri’s time in office.
The relatives allege that they were followed, recorded and filmed as intimidation not to file a lawsuit for the deaths of the submarine.
“A significant number of documents were found addressed to then-President Macri, exhaustively describing the things we said,” Luis Tagliapietra, father of one of the deceased crewmembers, told The Associated Press.
“It was not only in the tone of a narrative, it was also a transcript of complete sentences that we had spoken in private,” Tagliapietra said.
Speaking outside of court after the hearing, Macri’s defense attorney Pablo Lanusse criticized the charges, as well as the process, for being politically motivated.
“We have just attended a shameful court session that makes the justice system a sham,” Lanusse told reporters in statements broadcast on live television, “because it was absolutely clear from the judge’s animosity towards Macri that he intended to try him. before the elections. “
“This is all a show, sadly it is a show,” he said.
The government has denied allegations that the subpoena was politically motivated. He also exchanged accusations of putting on a “show” before the elections.
“It is evident that he (Macri) is trying to put on a kind of show with his entourage in Dolores,” Justice Minister Marín Soria told El Uncover Radio on Thursday.
Macri had been living in the United States and, according to local media, had told him that the court had ignored a summons to appear in court in early October citing “international commitments.”
In an Instagram post on October 5, Macri announced that he had accepted a teaching position at the Adam Smith Center for Economic Freedom at Florida International University in Miami, Florida.