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Spies here, there and everywhere

At the precise moment when officers from Banco Provincia were meeting in Buenos Aires, Maria Eugenia Vidal, businessmen and spies to coordinate the preparation of cases against union leaders, 87 agents of the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) were deployed throughout the Buenos Aires territory in what is understood to have been the longest chapter of espionage during the government of Cambiemos. The army of spies that the AFI planted in Buenos Aires had one main objective: do intelligence on political organizations but, above all, on popular kitchens and picnic areas. The agents treasured photos of children eating or celebrating Children’s Day. For this mission, which can hardly be classified as high risk, the AFI allocated more than ten million pesos, according to judicial estimates. “The most voluminous and profuse case of espionage was the one that occurred in the AMBA. It was the most widespread and brutal espionage”, he says Page 12 Leopoldo Moreau, president of the Bicameral Commission for the Control of Intelligence Organisms and Activities, which is working on a report on illegal intelligence tasks in the province during the Vidal government from the revelation of the anti-union “Gestapo” scandal. “Our idea is to arrive as soon as possible so that the Argentine Parliament has an opinion on what happened. The importance of the issue forces us to act without delay”, added the deputy.

Shortly after Mauricio Macri took office, the AFI tripled the presence it historically had in the province of Buenos Aires. The former SIDE, since the 1970s, had three delegations: one in La Plata, another in Mar del Plata – which rose to fame for spying on the relatives of the crew members of the ARA San Juan – and a third in Bahía Blanca . But, by April 2016, Gustavo Arribas authorized the creation of another five bases: in Ezeiza, in Quilmes, in San Martín, in Morón and in Pilar. Later a sixth was added, that of La Matanza, a bastion of Kirchnerism that the macrismo was interested in controlling. This expansionism of the macrista services was known as “AMBA Project”.

It was Vidal herself who said in which localities the AFI bases should be installed, according to Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani in 2019 to the Bicameral Commission when they were summoned after the scandal that had Marcelo Sebastián D’Alessio as the protagonist broke out. “Actually, when the AMBA was created, it was an idea that came up in conjunction with the province of Buenos Aires to make a map of complex crimes”said the then deputy director. And he added: “The governor requested the location”. Arribas ratified what his number two said and limited about Vidal: “He participated.” According to what was said by the then highest authorities of the macrista AFI, Vidal was no stranger to the implantation of spies in the province who were dedicated to political espionage, despite the explanations that the current deputy rehearsed in the last days after it became known the video of the meeting at Banco Provincia.

The AMBA Project, which lasted between 2016 and 2017, was under the command of a lawyer named Pablo Pinamonti. Entered the AFI in 2016 and an old acquaintance of the prosecutor Carlos Stornelli, Pinamonti had a clear terminal in that underworld: responded to the then administrative director of Legal Affairs Juan Sebastián de Stefano, one of the three attendees at the meeting of the anti-union “Gestapo” and whom Horacio Rodríguez Larreta supports in Subterráneos de Buenos Aires State Society (SBASE).

control the territory

The 87 spies were distributed in the nine bases that the AFI started to have in the province of Buenos Aires. They had at least fifteen cars to mobilize and all kinds of necessary instruments to carry out the task of surveillance and infiltration. They had spy cameras, microphones, recorders, cell phones and computers. Documents were even found with orders from agents to buy spy hats or glasses or drones.

They spied as much as they could. The guilds were under his watchful eye. were found at least 45 reports on teacher unions that in 2017 they closed the teaching parity in the second semester. They spied on political organizations. The acts of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner continued in the province while running for the Senate. They monitored human rights organizations such as HIJOS and even recorded the activities of Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel or the Provincial Commission for Memory (CPM). They were interested in the marches for the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado or protests by kids murdered by the Bonaerense.

But the main focus of the exSIDE was focused on what was happening with the dining rooms or picnic areas. The spies made lists of the places where adults and children were going to eat, identified those responsible, recorded their telephone numbers and took photos showing boys and girls eating or playing. One of the heads of the bases tried to justify this espionage by saying that they were investigating complaints about embezzlement of food. With the same argument, a spy from the Morón delegation infiltrated the Barrios de Pie organization with such bad luck that, when he was setting up cameras and microphones to record a meeting (what is seen was a widespread practice in the AFI), he He fell from the roof, fractured his pelvis, and ended up in the hospital. The mobilizations for the food emergency were also spied on, making it clear that the Cambiomite authorities were concerned about everything that revolved around the activation of the popular sectors in the face of hunger.

The AFI stored photos of children in soup kitchens.

“The final objective of the AMBA installation was to actively intervene in the political scene based on intelligence”, explains to this newspaper Federico Schmeigel, director of the Control of Corruption and Illegal Intelligence program of the CPM. “They sought to control the street, the territory of the province of Buenos Aires, not through politics, but through intelligence.” he added.

For the two judges who investigated what happened in the province of Buenos Aires within the framework of the AMBA Project, Alejo Ramos Padilla and Martín Bava, the control of the AFI during the macrismo was so capillary that it recovered the tradition of the fearsome Intelligence Directorate of the Police of the Province of Buenos Aires, a key gear in the dictatorship that, even in democracy, continued to monitor social organizations, human rights organizations and relatives of the victims of its own force. In fact, the heads of the six bases created during the macrismo came from Buenos Aires and some had entered in the ’70s.

The neoliberal restoration

The AMBA Project was illegal since its creation because it enabled the AFI to gather information for political reasons, something prohibited by the intelligence law –in force since 2001 and reformed in 2015–. For these facts, in Dolores they were prosecuted to 27 people. It is an investigation still open, but it could be dragged in the coming weeks to Comodoro Py.

Obviously, the province of Buenos Aires is an important territory of militancy, construction and political dispute and, therefore, the AFI allocated resources to that district. However, the deployment in Buenos Aires did not differ too much from the deployment at the federal level. The judicial table was only one and assumed different forms and compositions as they were needed, “said the AFI auditor, Cristina Caamaño, to this journal.

Behind the political persecution embodied in the lawfare there was the neoliberal restoration”Caamaño insists. “It was a general strategy that took different forms in different jurisdictions. They persecuted relatives of victims of submariners, soup kitchens, militants and political, union and social leaders, native peoples”, he concluded.

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