The Argentine Chamber of Cassation today acquitted former President Carlos Menem (1989-1999) for a crime of aggravated arms smuggling to Croatia and Ecuador between 1991 and 1995 for which he had been previously sentenced to seven years in prison, they reported today. Efe sources close to the ex-ruler.
In order to exonerate Menem, the Justice considered that the “reasonable period” in the case was exceeded – the litigation was delayed for two decades, and the defense described the ruling as “really just” for the former head of government.
In 2017, Menem, 88, was sentenced to seven years in prison and 14 years of disqualification from holding public office after considering him a “co-author” of aggravated smuggling of war material to those two countries and reject appeals filed by the defense of Menem.
The ex-lieutenant was placed in preventive custody in 2001 for six months, and then he was released for having parliamentary privileges since occupying a seat in the Senate since 2005, a position he renewed in the legislative elections of 2017 for six years.
“There are government acts that are not judiciable. A country that makes weapons and does not use them has to sell them, “they said from Menem’s defense.
In the case they were also convicted as co-authors of aggravated smuggling of war material to whoever was Menem’s defense minister, Oscar Camilión (5 years and six months in prison), to Diego Palleros (5 years in prison), who was accused of trafficking with weapons, the ex-intervenor of the company Fabricaciones Militares, Luis Sarleng (4 years in prison) and several other officials.
The same sources informed that there is still no new ruling regarding Camilión and Palleros, but they said that “they will probably suffer the same fate” as the former president.
Menem’s daughter, Zulema Menem, wrote a message on her account of a social network to congratulate her father: “everything happens and this also happened,” she said.
On the other hand, for Elisa Carrió, a member of the Civic Coalition – a member of the governing party against Cambiemos -, the ruling “demonstrates the visceral impunity that seriously damages the Republic”, in another written message.
“Politics and justice prevented a conviction in short terms. Today the same policy and the same justice prevented the fulfillment of the sentence “, added on the delay of the process, reason for which Menem was absolved.
From the surroundings of Carrió, the deputy Juan Manuel Lopez asked the prosecutor of Cassation to appeal the resolution of this Thursday.
During the Menem government, 6,500 tons of weapons officially destined for Panama and Venezuela were exported, but in fact they were diverted to Croatia in 1991, during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and to Ecuador in 1995.
All this happened in the middle of the war with Peru by the sector of Twintiza in the middle of an old border dispute, despite the fact that Argentina was one of the guarantors of the Treaty of Peace between both countries. The conflict, which had broken out in January, and which lasted several months, had surprised Ecuador with a shortage of ammunition, which was provided by Argentina, on condition that it also bought a lot of rifles, apparently in disrepair and that the country was not needed.
The munitions, however, were urgently required and allowed the Peruvian Army to be confronted, to keep Tiwintza, to stop the war and to sign a peace agreement years later.
Altogether there were several maritime shipments to Croatia and three air shipments to Ecuador, with weapons from Military Fabrications and units of the Argentine Army.
In the trial, the former president denied having had responsibility in the illegal sale of weapons with the argument that during his term “he limited himself to signing arms export decrees” to Venezuela and Panama and that the rest of the proceedings were not known to him.
For this reason, Menem was detained for six months in 2001, accused of being the head of an “illicit association” dedicated to illegal arms trafficking, but was released after a Supreme Court ruling. (I)