May 18, 2022 3:44 pm

A conflict with Uruguay is tense over the assets of trade unionist Marcelo Balcedo

Investigated in Argentina for money laundering, extortion practices and links to drug trafficking, the trade unionist Marcelo Balcedo He was imprisoned in a mansion on the Uruguayan coast four years ago surrounded by money, jewelry, high-end cars, weapons of war and a disturbing feeling: the accumulation of evidence would sink any hint of defense. Since his fall, materialized from an international arrest warrant, the Government unsuccessfully claims delivery of your goods and that justice can investigate. The last request made via the Foreign Ministry was in August 2021 and was not even answered.

Still far from becoming a diplomatic conflict, the Balcedo case is today a point of tension between Argentina and Uruguay. This was recognized by diplomatic and judicial sources in our country consulted by THE NATION. The discomfort was accentuated because a parallel criminal proceeding was initiated on the other side of the Río de la Plata for money laundering, smuggling and arms trafficking, which concluded with a beneficial agreement for the former head of the Union of Workers and Employees of Education and Minority (Soeme). The Uruguayan prosecutor’s office signed an agreement with Balcedo and his partner in which they recognized their responsibility for the crimes, but in exchange they negotiated to reduce their sentences and recover part of the money seized.

Balcedo’s cars that Argentina claims as assets of corruptionLeonardo Mainé

Argentina criticized this treatment and especially that Uruguay returned money that could come from criminal activities. The one who raised his voice was the federal judge of La Plata Ernest Kreplack, who complained “for the lack of answers” and pointed not only against the neighboring country but also attributed responsibility for the lack of definition to the local diplomatic authorities.

Kreplak does not give up on repatriating the trade unionist and returned to the charge for the goods. Through the Public Prosecutor’s Office, he claimed the return of US$4 million and four high-end vehicles (two Porsches, a Land Rover and a Chevrolet Camaro) to be included in the Forfeited Assets Fund. A loot not inconsiderable in times of crisis. “He should come back and be judged here,” they said in the federal court of La Plata.

The change in the Foreign Ministry after the electoral defeat of the ruling party with the departure of Felipe Solá and the income of santiago cafiero further delayed the intricate negotiations with the Uruguayans. The last management was on October 1 of last year, with a letter from the Foreign Ministry to the Uruguayan embassy.

“Although the extradition of both [Balcedo y su pareja] was duly granted by the Uruguayan authorities, the transfer of neither of the two accused has not materialized so far, ”the Foreign Ministry stated in a letter. He also pointed out that the Argentine justice was not authorized to take an investigative statement from them, despite the fact that different alternatives were offered to do so.

In the letter, the Foreign Ministry reinforced its intention to repatriate Balcedo and demands a response that has not yet arrived. “It would be greatly appreciated to be able to receive a positive response to the points raised as urgently as possible,” he stated in one section. And he warned that Argentina “is forced to point out that, if there is no favorable response to the requests made, it reserves the right to raise the issue before the relevant regional and international forums.”

"The Great Chaparral", the farm where the trade unionist Balcedo spends his days of house arrest
“El Gran Chaparral”, the farm where the trade unionist Balcedo spends his days of house arrestSantiago Hafford / Special Envoy – LA NACION

Since October there has been no other formal epistolary exchange, although the subject was the subject of talk on more than one occasion between Solá, when he was foreign minister, and Francisco Bustillo, the Uruguayan foreign minister. Bustillo’s spokesman did not respond this time to calls from THE NATION. On other occasions, he pointed out that it was an exclusively judicial issue.

Balcedo inherited in 2011 from his father Antonio the control of the Soeme branch of Buenos Aires, which brings together the auxiliary staff of the province’s educational establishments. The Buenos Aires Soeme has 20,000 members and has been judicially intervened since 2018, with a brief interruption in 2019, when there were elections that were later dismissed. The auditor appointed by the Chamber of Labor is Julius Simon.

Balcedo is under house arrest in Uruguay and awaits trial in that country. Despite his fall, four years ago, his name emerged again in the inner life of the Soeme. The Union of Workers of Social Work for Teaching Personnel (Sitosplad), headed by Alejandro Bassignani, denounced Soeme’s intervention before the National Chamber of Labor for not enabling its participation in the joint negotiation with employers. This is an old intra-union dispute over the representation of workers. The newest thing is not that, but that at the Soeme negotiating table is Claudio Marcelo González, a leader who worked in the Balcedo negotiations. González invoices the union as a monotributista. He wouldn’t be the only one: there would be ten other old crooks of the former boss who would also provide services.

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