"We have nothing to hide, as [Argentine President Nestor] Kirchner said. Absolutely nothing."Of course, Chavez passes the whole episode off as an American conspiracy to discredit him. The money was found because the Buenos Aires airport was so busy preparing for a visit from Chavez that the businessman was sent through regular security checks instead of being waved through as a VIP. Oops, gotta hate it when that happens.
The remarks did nothing to ease the discomfort of Mr. Kirchner and his wife, Sen. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a leading candidate to succeed her husband in presidential elections next year.
A high-level source in that country said the cash, found in the briefcase of a Venezuelan state oil company contractor at a Buenos Aires airport two weeks ago, was destined to help finance an Argentine state company, Energia Argentina S.A. (Enarsa).
The source also charged that some of the money was intended for the campaign of Mrs. Kirchner, whom Mr. Chavez endorsed during a recent visit to Buenos Aires.
An Argentine judge has ordered the arrest of Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, the Venezuelan businessman who was caught with $800,000 in cash in his suitcase when he landed in Buenos Aires on Aug. 4. Mr. Antonini has been reported to be in Venezuela or Miami.
Yesterday, the international police coordinating agency Interpol said an international arrest warrant has been issued for Mr. Antonini, wanted in Argentina on fraud charges.
In a posting on its Web site, Interpol urged anyone with information regarding Mr. Antonini's whereabouts to contact local police or Interpol's General Secretariat in France.
The businessman arrived on a chartered plane carrying officials of the Venezuelan oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). Argentina's main newspaper, La Nacion, reported that the Falcon jet was chartered by Enarsa, which is involved in a new joint venture to extract natural gas from Bolivia.
Days before the smuggling attempt was uncovered, Mr. Chavez arrived in Buenos Aires to purchase $500 million in government bonds from Mr. Kirchner, in effect providing a loan to the cash-strapped government. A Venezuelan bond purchase in December 2005 helped Argentina pay off a $9.8 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Argentinian and Venezuelan officials are having to answer some uncomfortable questions about a suitcase of cash being brought into Argentina from Venezuela.