“We didn’t know what he worked for and he always had free time”
“Balbuena had all the time in the world and never talked about his work, he was available almost every day of the week”. This is how he began to give his testimony Rodolfo Grinberg in the oral and public trial against Americo Balbuena, Alejandro Sanchez and Adolfo Ustares. Grinberg is a journalist and founder of the Rodolfo Walsh Agency, Balbuena is a spy for the Federal Police who infiltrated that alternative media. Sánchez and Ustares were his bosses in the force.
The trial, in charge of federal judge Daniel Rafecas, began at noon this Tuesday with a full room in the Courts of Comodoro Py, where Patricia Walsh, Guadalupe Godoy, Alejandrina Barry, a Buenos Aires legislator from the PTS on the Left Front, lawyers from the Left Front, were present. Center of Professionals for Human Rights, militants from leftist organizations, journalists from FM La Tribu, and former members of the Walsh Agency.
Previously, some of the plaintiffs, together with their lawyers and human rights organizations, held a press conference outside the courts. There they emphasized the importance of oral and public trials against Balbuena, an agent of the Federal Police Information Corps who, between 2002 and 2013, infiltrated the Rodolfo Walsh Agency and illegally spied on popular organizations posing as a journalist.
Matias Aufierilawyer of the complaint together with Myriam Bregman, Liliana Mazea y Carlos Platovsky of the Center of Professionals for Human Rights, said that “it is quite unusual, with so many cases of espionage and more and more being known, that we manage to find some of them, those responsible who are identified. In this case we managed to get two of their bosses on trial, which accounts for the institutional actions for decades.”
“He was our mobile”
Rodolfo Grinberg was the first witness to testify in the triallike fFounder of the Rodolfo Walsh Agency and with whom Balbuena first established a relationship to enter as a journalist. The witness exposed how the agency was formed in the heat of the December 2001 days, for which reason it focused on reflecting the growing social conflict and the activity of popular organizations and the student movement. Many claims did not come to light through the mainstream media, so they resorted to alternative media. “Cases of easy trigger and all kinds of social conflict”, he detailed about the activity they carried out as “journalists who confronted the system”.
In respect of balbuenaGrinberg said that what surprised him the most was that I didn’t fit that profile of journalism, because he did not have “a barricade speech.” But that “as at that time there were many people angry with what was happening and they were approaching the militancy”, thought that balbuena “It was that kind of people, because of the things that I asked, like wanting to learn”.
Grinberg detailed how Balbuena fulfilled tasks for the Agency. “He was our mobile because he could do it, most of us in the agency did not have time for work”. Besides confirmed with certainty that Balbuena did “coverage” of demonstrations where the Federal Police itself was. The lawyer Aufieri asked him if there had ever been repressionto which Grinberg replied that the only one he remembered at the time was in the FTAA summit in Mar del Plata (2005) when Balbuena “was at the focus of tension.” Regarding Balbuena’s “journalistic” job, he added: “He was meticulous in the reports, he did an x-ray of each current or group”.
In 2013, Grinberg was warned that Balbuena was a Federal agent. She decided to confront him and made an appointment to talk. “His response left me in no doubt that it was true,” he told Judge Rafecas, since Balbuena insisted on wanting to know “who had said that”. So he felt “very vulnerable, thinking that I had a policeman who I thought was my friend”. Curiously, when Grinberg called him to quote him, Balbuena had told him that he wanted to leave the agency for “personal reasons.” Even more striking was what happened later, when the Walsh Agency together with the Truth and Justice Memory Meeting called for a mobilization to denounce espionage: that same day the agency’s website was hacked.
“He wasn’t a James Bond”
Prior to Grinberg’s statement, the only defendant who decided to testify was Alejandro Sánchez, who was Balbuena’s boss in the Analysis Division of the Security and State Department of the Federal Police from 2009 to 2013.
Sánchez insisted on painting the Information Corps as a fairy tale, where they did things only at the request of the organizations where there was nothing illegal. He also wanted to provide an image of Balbuena as a “non-operative” agent who occupied a body administration office and fulfilled the same tasks as the rest, in an attempt to minimize his responsibility for the events, he said: “I did not have many lights, I did not it was precisely James Bond”.
However, the police chief (now retired) admitted that at that time there were 17 agents from the Criminal Intelligence Corps of the Federal Police working within the Analysis Division, and that there are agents from this body “in all of the Police.” When asked if he was aware of the existence of other secret agents, Sánchez replied: “Can you tell me if there were other infiltrators like Balbuena?” In a supposed irony that actually sounded more like a confession.
Balbuena drew attention on FM La Tribu
After Grinberg stated Alejandro de Massisociologist and worker FM The Tribe. There he told how in 2013, when Balbuena’s espionage at the Walsh Agency came to light, the radio held meetings where they could “connect the dots” of situations that occurred in 2002. That year Balbuena had a brief approach to the Buenos Aires station, through a program of popular correspondents. Although de Massi clarified that he did not know him, his colleagues said that He had called their attention at that time because of the questions he was asking, about who ran the radio, what his financing was like, and that they began to notice that Balbuena’s answers did not coincide about what his occupation was, first saying one thing and then another. This happened for about a month and a half, until in a meeting they asked him “half seriously half jokingly” if it was serviceagainst which Balbuena did not return more on the radio
The trial will continue this Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. with more witnesses, Maria del Carmen Verdú (Correpi), the former disappeared detainee Carlos “Sueco” Lordkipanidse, Oscar Castelnovo (another founder of the Walsh Agency) and Christian Castillo (PTS-FITU), among others.
“It is very important to show that they are not self-employedwho are not loose people who detach themselves and do what they want, but who respond to organic bodies of the State. That, as in this case, it was created by the Onganía dictatorship, went through the civic-military dictatorship of ’76, but continued under all the constitutional governments” stated the national deputy Myriam Bregman for the Left Front, and part of the complaint in this lawsuit.