On July 14, 2020, Argentines were faced with a strict mandatory quarantine determined by presidential decree. It was not possible to hold private meetings, travel or go to bars and restaurants, which were closed. Only workers considered essential could walk more than 500 meters from their homes, and vehicles driving without permission were stopped and fined.
At Quinta de Olivos, the presidential residence, however, something else was happening. President Alberto Fernández received, to celebrate the birthday of the First Lady, Fabíola Yañez, a group of 12 people around a table with a cake, wine and food. No one wore masks or respected social distance. And the group didn’t forget to register for the event, smiling for a photo.
But earlier this month, a scandal erupted in Argentina when this image was revealed. On Thursday (12), opposition deputies Mario Negri, Luis Petri, Waldo Wolff and Cristian Ritondo presented a request for political judgment from the president for failure to comply with his own decree. This Friday (13), the Argentinian justice announced that it would investigate the case.
The scandal weakens the government while Argentina is three months away from the legislative elections which will renew the Congress.
After days of silence, the government has spoken out on the matter. “It must be clear that Olivos was functioning as a center of government operations at the start of the pandemic, and a lot of people were coming and going,” said Chief of Staff Santiago Cafiero, who downplayed the fact that the first lady celebrated it. birthday with friends at that time. “It is obvious that there was an oversight, but it is being used politically which is not proportional to the error,” he added, in an interview with a local radio station.
The photo was revealed by the newspaper La Nación and has gone viral on the networks. In the image are people who do not fall under the classification of “essential worker”. There were real estate agents, former models, actresses, as well as Fabíola’s stylist and hairdresser. There was also a child who accompanied the parents. The president appears in the photo smiling and relaxed.
Prosecutor Ramiro González said on Friday that he had opened investigations to determine whether there had been a violation of quarantine that night and others in which the entry and exit sheets to Quinta de Olivos, also published by the press, recorded the entry and exit of people.
One can consider as crimes, committed by the presidential couple, the non-respect of the decree limiting the circulation and an attack on public health. The sentence ranges from six months to two years in prison.
The case becomes more serious because, before this photo, another was made public, showing the first lady with few friends – in this one the president does not appear.
At that time, Fernández said the image could have been changed so that it looked like the meeting took place during quarantine and at the official residence.
The president called the accusations that there was a party liars and said he was only holding working meetings. “In Olivos, I’m tired of seeing people, but for work, because I’m the President of the Republic.”
With the second photo, however, in which he appears relaxed with guests and even his dog Dylan, the first denial sounds like a blatant lie. Fernández didn’t say anything about the second frame until mid-afternoon on Friday.