At the very moment when the media pack is alone in the dubious enterprise of tearing apart the image of the unfortunate Rodrigo Rojas Vade, an episode that is so well oiled in the strategy of delegitimising and discrediting the Constitutional Convention, a silent scandal of proportions broke out, involving four mayors of the three municipalities that make up the ghetto of the elite.
The silent part comes from the fact that only small and medium-sized electronic publications, such as Crónicas Transparentes and El Mostrador, have given the attention that the network of high-level municipal corruption deserves, a merit even more commendable in the first case, considering that the authors of the investigation, María Fernanda Leiva and Tamara Silva, are members of the Advanced Journalism Workshop of the communications faculty of the Catholic University.
The rest of the media, including those that monopolise audiences – especially television – and make up the so-called media system, have not failed to report these facts. This is not how disinformation is constructed. They do, but they publish decaffeinated, brief, snapshot versions that do not allow connections to be made with multiple dimensions, such as time, context, historiographical traceability and social conflict, among others.
It is not harassment that reaches repulsive extremes, as happens when the owners of the media system unleash the media pack against a concentrated target, as in the current case of Rojas Vade.
It is not the systematic and obsessive lie, built on half-truths, repeated over and over again by the media system, until it becomes common sense, to install the strategic objectives of the media owners.
By way of example, in the Caval case, the aim was to discredit President Bachelet personally, and therefore to curb her reformist ambitions, while the campaign against the ARCIS University was in itself a missile to the waterline of higher education reform.
It is not that, based on these facts, they go out to call on half the world, demanding a condemnatory pronouncement on pain of accusation of complicity; nor even less, that journalists have the nerve to interrupt the interviewee, as if they were the object of the news.
Such treatment is reserved for outsiders, especially if there is suspicion of affiliation or belonging to the wide world of communism, terrorism and violence; never for one’s own.
Moreover, according to an unwritten but no less respected rule, right-wing politicians or elite businessmen who have had the misfortune to have been caught with their fingers in the till, or to come up against evidence that has buried their lies, and who have therefore received some kind of judicial sanction – usually light sentences – disappear from the media, as if they enjoyed silent protection, so as not to inflict double punishment on them.
In this way, within the night that is coming, the ex-mayor Raúl Torrealba, one of the founders of Renovación Nacional, will at least have the peace of mind of not facing reporters hanging out of his car windows, or setting up real camps in front of his house, and that the television morning shows will not broadcast even the most trivial details of his private life.
In the likely event that he is found guilty, he will probably receive the lightest sentence allowed by law, remitted for previous irreproachable conduct.
From then on, he will enter into that pact of omertá, that cone of silence of the media system.
Indeed, does anyone remember any mention, under any circumstances, in any media, of politicians and businessmen convicted of any of the facets of the scandal of the illegal financing of politics, such as Jovino Novoa, Pablo Wagner, Pablo Zalaquett, Jaime Orpis, Marta Isasi, Pablo Contesse and Francisco Mujica?
Not to mention the accused, who were not even touched with the petal of a rose, in relation to their proven participation in these events, such as UDI senators Ena von Baer and Jacqueline van Rysselberghe.
Of course, every rule admits exceptions, such as Carlos Alberto Délano, once again in the limelight, regarding his label’s deceitful manoeuvres to smuggle the Domingo project in the Piñera government’s discounts, or Pablo Longueira, who achieved discreet media exposure with his bizarre thesis that the right would win up to 40% of the Constitutional Convention.
The media system condemns Rojas Vade without remission or consideration that, regardless of his ailment, he is seriously ill, and that at most he can be charged with defrauding the public trust, which is not a criminal offence; while at the same time he omits, or covers very superficially, a network of fraud of public money, constituted by the mayors of the communes where ninety percent of the one percent of the country’s elite is imprisoned; which has diverted billions of pesos in funds that had an alternative use, and which ended up, either in the electoral box, or in personal embezzlement.
It is true that Torrealba is in the limelight, with the discretion described above, because he was denounced for the rude habit of receiving a monthly envelope with five million in banknotes, as did the former director of the PDI, Héctor Espinoza, another of whom the media system is not talking about, nor is he being hounded by the pack of hounds. But former mayors Felipe Guevara, of Lo Barnechea, and Francisco de la Maza and Joaquín Lavín, of Las Condes, are getting off easy.
Corruption networks in municipal corporations
In the opinion of Alberto Precht, executive director of Chile Transparente, the emerging evidence of organic corruption in the municipalities of Las Condes, Lo Barnechea and Vitacura “is the tip of the iceberg, a pressure cooker that had to explode”.
Analogous to the paedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church, uncovered by the Boston Globe in early 2002, what is surprising at the end of the day is that it did not explode earlier.
According to the report Las Condes, Vitacura and Lo Barnechea have transferred $29 billion to their private association for security purchases from the aforementioned authors, in September 2014, the then mayors of Vitacura, Raúl Torrealba, Francisco de la Maza, of Las Condes, and Felipe Guevara, of Lo Barnechea, announced the creation of a joint security unit, a communal association they called the Association of Municipalities for Citizen Security of the Eastern Zone, AMSZO, registered in April 2016.
The declared purpose was the proverbial optimisation in the allocation of resources, but the real objective was autonomy and lack of control in the management of public resources. In practice, since then, all security spending in the three communes has been channeled through this private municipal association.
Information from the Central Registry of State Collaborators and Municipalities shows that between April 2016 and August 2021, the AMSZO received $29.1 billion from these three municipalities.
In the same register, 38 purchases are listed as direct purchases, without competition between suppliers. Among them are agreements with SOSAFE and legal consultancy contracts with the Finis Terrae University.
Between 2016 and April 2021, the AMSZO has paid $1.2 billion to the Finis Terrae University for the contracting of the legal consultancy programme. That money comes from the municipality of Vitacura through fees transferred to the AMSZO since 2016.
The agreement is fixed until 2021, renewable for three years. The annual payment to this Finis Terrae University programme exceeds $350 million, according to the approval of municipal contributions to the Association for 2020.
SOSAFE S.A. is a technology company that created an online application for citizen reports related to safety. Las Condes, Lo Barnechea and Vitacura pay for this service through the AMSZO.
The AMSZO has paid $797 million to SOSAFE between 2016 and April 2021. Of this amount, about $400 million corresponds to one project in the three communes. Separate contracts amount to $170 million in Lo Barnechea, $145 million in Las Condes and $81 million in Vitacura.
SOSAFE was created in alliance with a group of security entrepreneurs who own Instagis, a digital data company that, according to a CIPER report, played a key role in the 2016 election campaigns, the same year the contracts with SOSAFE were signed.
In this way, Instagis facilitated the re-election of Raúl Torrealba in Vitacura and Felipe Guevara in Lo Barnechea, and Joaquín Lavín’s return to the municipality of Las Condes, by providing them with the service of profiling the residents of their communes, which includes interests, fears and preferences, crucial information in political campaigns.
The data used by Instagis comes precisely from SOSAFE. It is therefore a zero-sum equation, where the private sector always wins and the common good loses.
However, as another report by the same authors reveals, Las Condes and Lo Barnechea have transferred more than $14 billion in the last three years to private security entities that are not audited, the AMSZO is not the only mechanism used to divert funds spent on security to the grey zone of corporations, foundations and communal associations, with a municipal façade, but lower standards of transparency and control.
These are Lo Barnechea Seguridad and the Unión Comunal de Juntas de Vecinos de Las Condes, bodies financed by their municipalities, but which act as independent entities, and therefore buy outside the public procurement system; an ideal microclimate for the flourishing of fixes, embezzlement, embezzlement, fraud, embezzlement, cutbacks, sisas, overpricing, overpayments, and theft in all its variables.
By way of example, this type of chameleon-like corporation, with a public façade but private law and a precarious legal structure, subcontracts the private security guards of the three municipalities, with the net result that, on the one hand, the municipalities transfer substantial funds to them, despite the fact that they have no way of controlling them, or rather for the same reason.
On the other hand, the unfortunate patrolmen inhabit a bizarre labour limbo where they are neither municipal officials nor subject to any contract, and are therefore deprived of the most elementary labour rights.
Not only that.
Despite the fact that they are governed by the same law that regulates neighbourhood councils or mothers’ centres, or perhaps for the same reason, the Unión Comunal de Juntas de Vecinos de Las Condes y Lo Barnechea Seguridad, as “municipal functional organisations”, not only administers the patrolmen’s salaries, but is also in charge of the acquisition of their uniforms, the purchase or lease of vehicles and motorbikes, the acquisition or contracting of technology, such as cameras, computer platforms, databases, and consultancy and training services.
At least this is what the director of Public Safety of Las Condes assured the community council of 12 December 2019.
These are significant amounts. Both agencies have received $14.6 billion between 2019 and August 2021, according to the Central Registry of State and Municipal Collaborators. In 2019 they received almost $6 billion, far more than Pudahuel, Lo Prado, Renca and Quinta Normal, which together spent $2.1 billion on security in the same year.
The point is that, because of its precarious legal framework and deliberate ambiguity, there is no way to establish and monitor the use of these resources.
It is true that the funds transferred by the municipalities to these peculiar entities must be approved by the municipal councils, but it is also true that councillors have little supervisory power, especially in contexts where the mayor holds the majority; notwithstanding the fact that the Comptroller General of the Republic has no powers to audit the accounts or the assets of these slippery entities, whose resources may come, in addition to the municipality, from various private sources, which are highly secretive and uncontrolled.
Although they use municipal resources, they are not subject to norms of transparency and access to information that would make it possible to know the figures and backing of expenditures.
A report by the Fiscal Observatory rejects that they do not have the same regulations as municipalities, all the more so since they “exercise functions of public interest and administer assets of the same nature as those of the central government and public bodies defined by law, which deserve to be known and accountable to the public”.
“There are clear risks in terms of probity and conflicts of interest, since without due transparency and availability of key information, such as staff payroll, it is difficult to control potential risk situations, such as the payment of additional remuneration and overtime, on a fee basis, to people already hired by the municipality.”
Organisations set up to make a killing
It is not necessary to descend to the level of personal responsibility to explain the unstoppable tendencies towards corruption brought about by the neoliberal dogma of privatising everything that moves, including territorial security.
The state is disaggregated into multiple private nodes, each greedy for profit, with no scruples whatsoever. After all, if the doctrine proclaims profit, advantage and gain, it is only natural that most acolytes consider that charity begins at home.
Precht argues that the problem is that the covert privatisation of municipal services manifests itself in a black box, impossible to control, where the diversion of resources, payments of favours and bonus mechanisms are rife:
“It is a mechanism widely used by many municipalities in the country that, supposedly in pursuit of effectiveness, create private legal entities, such as corporations, foundations, organisations, which by their legal nature do not have the same control that a municipality can have. In this way, functions that should be carried out by the municipality are taken over by third parties, who in reality are not third parties, but only a disguise for third parties”.
He gives the example of the creation of a so-called sports corporation. Sports functions are taken out of the municipality and transferred to this corporation. The point is that it can pay whatever salaries it wants, to whomever it wants, without scale or control. The audit only refers to transfers from the municipality, in lump sums, and not to other types of income, which can come from multiple and opaque sources and triangulations.
“It is what is called the escape from administrative law, it escapes from control. It is a very old mechanism, which begins with the foundations created by the first ladies a long time ago in Chile, which in the end are financed by the budget and public officials, but which do not have the same level of state control”.
For the executive director of Chile Transparente, corporations should not exist:
“There is no illegality in the creation of municipal corporations, but what they do is to go over the edge”.
It is the same dynamic and pursues the same purposes as the dense warren of corporations that cover up Piñera’s fortune: to evade regulations, taxes and control.
It is the nature of the neoliberal model: you can roll the dice as many times as you like, but it won’t be long before the pattern of individual profit, profit and corruption emerges.
The tip of the iceberg
This appears with the accuracy and precision of a pantograph in the complaint of the municipality of Vitacura against former mayor Torrealba:
“The Public Prosecutor’s Office is aware that within the community organisations Vita Emprende and Vita Deportes a great administrative disorder has been observed, including the recording of expenses that do not have the proper backing and the non-existence of updated financial statements.”
The complaint was admitted for processing in the Fourth Court of Guarantee of Santiago, on charges of fraud of who was in charge of the municipality of Vitacura, for a period of 25 consecutive years, from 1996 to July 2021.
The libel includes the testimony of Antonia Larraín, niece of Domingo Prieto, and close friend of one of Raúl Torrealba’s daughters, who for 16 years worked as an official of the Municipality of Vitacura, and who in July 2018 took over the Community Development Directorate.
The detail is that Prieto is former president of the Local Sports Council, former legal representative of the foundations Vita Salud and Vita Deportes, and former friend of Torrealba, against whom he is engaged in a bitter brawl of reciprocal accusations.
“As soon as she took office, the accused Torrealba told her that every month she would receive from the accused Prieto an envelope with a sum of approximately
5,000,000, which actually happened until December 2020,” says the complaint signed by lawyer Mauricio Irarrázabal, director of legal counsel for the municipality of Vitacura.
The text of the complaint adds:
“On 19 August 2021, a municipal official who held a position of trust in the previous administration – whose identity is known to the Public Prosecutor’s Office – came to my offices in the Municipality of Vitacura, telling me that for approximately three years and until the change of municipal administration, which occurred in July, she handled monthly envelopes of money containing approximately the sum of $ 5. 000,000 in cash, which he received, among others, from Domingo Prieto Urrejola and Arnaldo Cañas and which he delivered personally to Mayor Raúl Torrealba”.
The complaint includes services paid for, but not rendered:
“The existence of payments for large sums of money has been detected, presumably coming from the payment of municipal subsidies received by said organisation, to Arnaldo Andrés Cañas González, who served as the organisation’s accountant. In the month of January 2021 alone, Mr. Cañas received three cheques from said entity, all of which were paid on 13 January 2021, for the sums of $10,000,000, $12,930,000 and $38,065,589, respectively, all of which were recorded as ‘funds to be rendered’ and have no known benefit or service as a counterpart”.
A similar situation was recorded for the Vita Deportes programme. In January of this year, Cañas received three cheques for the sums of $3,093,540; $2,915,500; and $13,984,075, with no counterpart or evidence of any service rendered:
“The above means that, only during the first fortnight of January 2021, Mr. Cañas received from the two organisations mentioned, without justification for it, the total sum of $ 80,939,380 that do not have as counterpart any known provision or service and that, if projected over the time of operation of the functional community organisations mentioned above, could compromise a relevant part of the municipal assets granted through grants, directly harming the neighbours of the commune.”
If corporations or foundations such as AMSZO; SOSAFE; Lo Barnechea Seguridad; Unión Comunal de Juntas de Vecinos de Las Condes; Asociación de Municipios Metropolitanos para la Seguridad Ciudadana, made up of the municipalities of Estación Central, Independencia, Providencia and Santiago; Asociación de Municipalidades para la Seguridad Ciudadana Concón-Limache, created by these two municipalities; Unidad de Víctimas y Persecución Penal de Lo Barnechea Seguridad and Fiscalía Privada SpA… are investigated accordingly, to mention entities that inhabit this grey zone, among other 67 corporations, foundations and functional community organisations, created with the aim of evading regulations and control, corruption would appear in earnest; the corruption of the classes, that which damages the public patrimony.
Corruption of the classes, the kind that damages the public patrimony, the kind that takes vast resources that would otherwise benefit the common people.
It is not that these ghostly entities cannot be investigated. What is lacking is the political will to do so. And, by the way, serious, rigorous and professional journalism, which would restore the epistemological value of truth.
For now, the lamentable media system that the country suffers from is limited to shooting at the pianist, and crucifying marginal figures like Rojas Vade, without even understanding what they mean or represent.
Among other factors and reasons, that is why we are the way we are.
Source: Digital Network