By Paula Buzzi
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Former financial manager and legal advisor of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Sergio Schoklender, was fired late last week and has been banned from leaving the country after being accused of money laundering and embezzlement from the Mothers’ government-donated funds.
- Scandal hits Argentina’s mothers of the disappeared (Photo courtesy of The Guardian).
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo are a group of women who, for the past 30 years, have been pressuring the Argentinean government to release information about their sons and daughters who were among the estimated 30,000 people abducted during Argentina’s military regime (1976-1983). As a form of silent protest, the Mothers silently marched in front of Argentina’s national congress every Thursday wearing white head scarves with the names of their missing children embroidered.
Suspicions arose after the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, uncovered Schoklender’s life of luxury on a relatively low government salary. According to Clarin, Schoklender acquired a 19-room mansion, sports cars and a yacht on a $16,000 a year salary.
Schoklender and his brother are suspected of using their titles as financial and legal advisors to steal from public funds given to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo by the Kirchner administration. Over the years, the Kirchner administration has transferred anywhere from $150 to $300 million into the Mothers’ funds to build low-income housing.
The Federal Justice Ministry and Argentina’s Congress are seizing documents and computers from Schoklender’s office as part of their investigation. In an eight-page document presented to the presiding Federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide, the head of the Plaza de Mayo Association, Hebe de Bonafini, accused the Schoklender brothers of “[operating] as an illegal association through fraudulent administration and false documentation.”
Schoklender, however, denies any wrongdoing and has given Judge Oyarbide financial documents such as bank statements and receipts that he says will prove his innocence.
As an advocate and supporter of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, President Christina Kirchner’s close ties to the association and its leaders could have negative political consequences for her as she faces re-election in October.
For more information, please see:
Buenos Aires Herald — Schoklender denies raiding Mothers of Plaza de Mayo offices —15 June 2011
The Wall Street Journal — Mothers on the March Again in Argentina— Into Scandal —15 June 2011
The Guardian UK — Scandal hits Argentina’s Mothers of the disappeared —12 June 2011
ABC News — Corruption scandal hits Argentina’s Mothers group —9 June 2011