The appearance of a series of chats in which the former head of security for the Uruguayan president, Luis Lacalle Pou, offers an Argentine businessman intelligence contacts and the use of an official program to tap cell phones caused a political earthquake in the neighboring country. The Minister of the Interior, Luis Alberto Heber, had to give explanations before a Senate commission, while leaders of the opposition Frente Amplio spoke of an “unprecedented scandal”.
Alejandro Astesiano was in charge of the custody of the Uruguayan president until a couple of months ago, when he was arrested accused of being part of an organization that forged documentation to grant passports to Russian citizens.
Before his arrest, he erased all the information on his cell phone, but the Scientific Police managed to recover one hundred percent of the contentincluding several exchanges that he had had on WhatsApp, which are available to the Prosecutor’s Office and some of which have been reported in the local press these days.
As disclosed The Dailyin a series of conversations last September there was an Argentine agricultural businessman, who produces wheat and soybeans in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, whom Astesiano He gave him information, supposedly obtained through the El Guardian system, which the Government uses to order wiretaps, as well as his contacts in Intelligence. According to the newspaper, the businessman wanted to confirm if any “stealth” vehicle participated without authorization in unloading wheat and soybeans from his property.
Explanations of a minister
For his part, the Minister of the Interior, Luis Alberto Heberappeared Monday before the Senate Security Committee and He assured that it is “a lie” that the former head of presidential security was able to access El Guardian.
“A telephone can only be intervened when it is carried out by the telephone operators, and they do not intercept the call if it is not with a judicial order, and for there to be a court order there must be a request from a prosecutor, and for there to be a request from a prosecutor there must be a police investigation that warrants intercepting that phone. In other words, it is practically impossible for someone outside the Police, the Prosecutor’s Office or the Judiciary to intervene from El Guardian,” Heber told the press.
The minister assured that there is no other official system other than El Guardian and that this “is duly audited”. “Every three months it has to be audited by the Supreme Court of Justice,” he said, in statements collected by the newspaper The country.
When asked by the press about how to explain what Astesiano said in his chats, the minister replied: “I can’t explain a lie. A lie is a lie, it has no explanation”.
The prosecutor in the case, Gabriela Fossati, had clarified last week that it has not been proven that the ex-custodian had access to the system. “The fact that someone boasts that they can do something does not mean that they actually did it”he said in a statement.
In any case, the Prosecutor’s Office summoned for next week the Secretary of the Presidency, Álvaro Delgado, and the deputy secretary Rodrigo Ferrés, as well as other officials as witnesses after Astesiano’s conversations suggested that he had access to the wiretapping systemas well as to the cameras of the Ministry of the Interior.
From the conversations it also emerges that the former official custodian had contact in July with someone supposedly close to the Argentine trade unionist and businessman Marcelo Balcedo, who was arrested in 2018 in Uruguay for a conviction of tax evasion and laundering, who asks him to intercede to achieve a meeting with Lacalle Pou.
“Go ahead, move, there’s a lot of money,” this man tells Astesiano. Balcedo is currently serving house arrest in eastern Uruguay and in May, a lawsuit for 22 million dollars began against the Uruguayan Statewhom he accuses of having frustrated a million-dollar business.
The position of the Broad Front
The Broad Front (FA) announced last night the creation of a follow-up group to the Astesiano investigation. “The FA has to follow up because possibly in the future there will have to be more substantive parliamentary actions”said the president of the opposition coalition, Fernando Pereira. “We are not rushing, we do not want to generate an issue that can be easily solved, we believe that there were serious acts of corruption in the government alongside the president and nobody warned him. All prevention mechanisms failed,” he assured.
For his part, the mayor of Canelones, Yamandú Orsi, who is considered one of the possible FA candidates for the upcoming 2024 presidential elections, spoke today of an “unprecedented scandal.” He wrote on Twitter: “I said that with Astesiano they had not taken care of the Presidency. It is much worse. The Presidency today appears involved in an unprecedented scandal. Beyond what the Justice dictates, there is a political responsibility that must be assumed. For the good of the Republic.”
Lacalle Pou defended the action and assured that they are collaborating in the investigation: “The government does not have a straw tail. We are calm with what we did. I can be wrong, but doing things wrong, outside the law, no. It seems to me that in this matter you have to go to the bone ”.
Astesiano is one of the five charged with falsifying documents for Russian citizens to obtain Uruguayan passports. In addition to him, two Russian citizens, a notary public and his wife, accused of forming an illegal network, are implicated in the case. In turn, there are two police officers who are being investigated for the case, one with a “hierarchical” position and the other with a “very hierarchical” position.according to the prosecutor.