Arm in arms

Argentina and Bolivia allege opposition figures bought and sold arms illegally.

The Public Prosecution Office of Argentina recently launched an investigation into former President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) for allegedly shipping ammunition and weapons to the then opposition in Bolivia to overthrow Evo Morales. Together with Macri, former ministers of Defence Óscar Aguiar; Security, Patricia Bullrich; and former Ambassador to Bolivia Normando Álvarez García also face charges.

In Bolivia, the Public Prosecution Office has filed charges against Jorge Terceros, the former chief of the Bolivian Air Forces, and a number of top officers in the army for the illegal acquisition of riot control equipment, including chemical agents, from Argentina in 2019.

Are there any merit to these allegations or is it the usual case of Latin America governments attacking their predecessors?

A political scientist in Argentina gave us his view, “Investigations have just begun so it is difficult to say what grounds the allegations have. However, in my opinion, it is unlikely to lead anywhere. Although Macri and Morales did not always see eye-to-eye, there were always proper diplomatic and commercial relations. Also, Argentina does not tend to intervene in the politics of other countries.”

The accusations stem from a letter disclosed by Bolivian authorities in which Jorge Tercero thanked Patricia Bullrich for the shipment of 40,000 cartridges of rubber bullets in 2019. In Buenos Aires, President Alberto Fernández publicly apologised to the Bolivian government for the alleged intervention in its internal affairs and filed a claim against Macri and former public officials subject to the prosecutors’ probe. However, opposition parties both in Bolivia and Argentina question the veracity of the accusations.

A political consultant in Bolivia felt the accusations were tenuous, “We don’t know for sure, but I’ve been told that the idea of implicating Macri was born in the Embassy of Argentina in Bolivia. Foreign Minister Mayta had said that Macri sent lethal military material to support the ‘coup’ in Bolivia in 2019 but the media have dismissed this, saying it was anti-riot material.”

“Foreign Minister Mayta had said that Macri sent lethal military material to support the ‘coup’ in Bolivia but the media have dismissed this, saying it was anti-riot material.”

Political consultant, Bolivia

Macri said that he was being targeted for political reasons and claimed that the Argentine government was using them as a smokescreen to cover its failure to deliver an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ahead of legislative elections next November.

According to the political scientist, Macri could be correct, “The former Argentine Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, showed proof that this request was made to the Argentine embassy on November 7, 2019 that is, while Evo Morales was still president. Also, the Argentine ambassador in Bolivia gave refuge to MAS leaders who had escaped.”

Furthermore, the case is currently under investigation by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for Bolivia (GIEI-Bolivia), created by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights that Bolivia purposefully set up to investigate acts of violence and human rights violations which occurred in the country between September and December 2019.

The political consultant could see the case being drawn out, “The biggest problem is that the accusers won’t stop. They will not cease, without saying anything new, they will just keep repeating. They might even try to start an international process at the International Criminal Court of Justice. It helps Bolivia to keep former interim President Jeanine Añez in jail and it helps Fernández to destroy Macri’s candidacy.”

“They might even try to start an international process at the International Criminal Court of Justice. It helps Bolivia to keep former interim President Añez in jail and it helps Fernández to destroy Macri’s candidacy.”

Political consultant, Bolivia

The political scientists in Argentina agreed, “The process is clearly going to be highly politicised. Macri is not the only target, also Gendarmerie officials, against whom the current government has an enormous enmity that stretches back to the Santiago Maldonado case. But the government needs to keep Macri at the centre of the scandal, much like Macri did with Cristina Kirchner.”

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