May 18, 2022 2:07 am

Discretionary use of the presidential fleet

It is recurrent to see in each meeting of governors, national officials or powerful unionists a huge number of private jets that the self-proclaimed “celebrities” of our politics and their relatives use to avoid mixing with the general public, duly isolated from the reality that we all live and see.

A clear example of the waste of public funds took place two months ago in the city of San Juan, venue for a match of our national soccer team that, “coincidentally”, coincided with a meeting of Peronist governors. As if it were not a country with more than 40% of its population in poverty, governors and other officials arrived in luxurious and modern jet planes that, when they are not at the service of the provincial executive powers, carry out sanitary flights. Almost all provinces have between one and two aircraft of this type, plus some plane or utility vehicle and helicopters that are used without limit, decorum or shame to move to any event that takes place in Buenos Aires or in some other place in the interior. Even, many times they take off at the same time and with the same destination as a regular airline flight. Those jets cost between two and three thousand dollars an hour. For a party congress in the Buenos aires city, a governor’s jet trip costs the provincial treasury an average of about one million pesos, compared to about 40,000 that would cost a ticket in the state company. Air favors are also common currency in politics.

The Presidential Air Group, at the exclusive service of the President of the Nation, has three Sikorsky helicopters bought by the administration Menem and a Boeing 737, to which are added two Learjet 60 from the Argentina air force. Both the President and the First Lady and their pet Dylan are frequent passengers of the aforementioned public fleet, which often includes the latest helicopter purchased by the Federal police. The restrictions imposed by the quarantine did not stop Fabiola Yanez, who, on four occasions out of a total of 17, circumvented the ban to travel to Missions, on “official visit,” according to public records.

Unless the Vice President was temporarily replacing the President, her inauguration does not entitle her to use official aircraft. However, it is usual that she, reluctant to travel by helicopter, has the presidential Boeing that, due to its large size, guarantees her greater privacy than the Learjet to move to Rio gallegos, with a cost of 12,000 dollars per section, about five million pesos per weekend. The violation of the law in which it incurs is twofold: it improperly uses the aircraft and, in addition, it does so for private reasons.. Between February and June 2021, 13 transfers between Buenos Aires and Santa Cruz, in addition to an ad hoc flight from the city of Buenos Aires to transport it from El Calafate a Rio gallegos, about a three-hour drive away. For the Holidays, between December 23 and 30, there were six Tango 11 trips: they went with her and returned empty, at almost 20,000 dollars each way.

Since February there would have been about 30 flights. Only 15 were with her on board. The rest empty. Adding up the six so far this year, half a million dollars. As if that were not enough, according to what emerges from reliable sources, the vice president also resorts to the YPF, another Learjet 6.

Let us not forget that between 2003 and 2015 the “canillita flights” carried an average of 5 kilos of daily without any passenger, 19 proven in one of the detachments of the cause of the bribery notebooks, with testimonies about the suitcases and furniture for the family hotel enterprises. It is known that even Florence Kirchner used these planes to get around with friends.

In campaign times, Victoria Tolosa Paz He also benefited from the use of a public resource such as a Federal Police plane to appear in a proselytizing act. The record has it Sergio Massa in his tours of Buenos Aires: 53 flights in police force ships. Between 2014 and 2018 alone, he had totaled 290 flights on private jets.

Paradoxically, our Air Force must turn to museum aircraft to meet its operational obligations, including those related to the pandemic. In the last two years, they recovered two Fokker 28 aircraft of about 50 years old that had been decommissioned in 2017 and, at least one, sent to the National Museum of Aeronautics along with another one that is already exhibited there, although it will also probably be returned to service after delighting visitors. Given the lack of resources to acquire transport aircraft, only one Boeing 737 and two small Beechs were purchased. The tired Fokker 27 is being readied to return to service after being, like its older brothers, sent to the museum. To all this, the budget provided for some 65,000 million pesos to cover the operating losses of Argentinian airlines in 2022. With just 10 percent of that number, the Air Force could purchase two medium transport aircraft per year.

Officials must refrain from using State facilities and services for their private benefit or that of their relatives, close friends or people outside the official function, much more so in critical economic times like the ones we are going through. The level of excess reached confirms the inability of these leaders to interpret the weariness of a citizenry that demands attitudes up to the circumstances.

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