In Argentina this week, the first-ever trial of a former president opened, fascinating the public and lifting the profile of the fight against corruption across Latin America.
Fernando de la Rua, left, is accused of “aggravated active bribery” and “misappropriation of public funds.”
He allegedly paid nearly $5 million in bribes to senators, using funds from the intelligence service, to pass a disputed labor reform bill in 2000. The reform measures, which allowed firms to employ workers for shorter periods of time and with fewer conditions, were among the conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund for the extension of financial aid during the country’s economic crisis.
De la Rua, 74, served as president for two years, leaving office in December 2001.
He’s on trial with former parliamentary secretary Mario Pontaquarto, who confessed to bribery, and former intelligence chief Fernando de Santibanes, former labor minister Mario Flamarique, and four former senators.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kitchener is one of the 300 witnesses due to be questioned.
Timing of the trial is symbolic for Latin America. It coincides with the opening of Brazil’s trial of the century, with more than three dozen politicians and their associates accused of being part of the biggest money-for-votes scandal in the country’s history.
Maria Dolores Hernandez J. is a researcher for ethiXbase.