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Sun Aug 21, 2016, 03:14 PM

Head of Argentine Customs, veteran of past coup attempts, fired after proof of bribery surfaces.

The Director General of Customs in Argentina, Juan José Gómez Centurión, was dismissed yesterday following revelations that he had solicited bribes.

The revelations were part of a complaint filed against Gómez Centurión at the National Security Ministry which included audio evidence of the National Customs Director soliciting bribes in exchange for allowing the value of imported goods to be underreported. Gómez Centurión denies the charges.

The now former Director General of Customs had been presented by the Mauricio Macri administration as "an example" in the effort to "clean up corruption." Gómez Centurión, however, had been a controversial appointment long before his recent dismissal for bribery.

A close associate of far-right Col. Mohamed Ali Seineldín, Gómez Centurión took part in the failed Easter and Monte Caseros rebellions in 1987 and 1988, both led by Colonel Aldo Rico. Rico headed the infamous Carapintada ("painted face" faction in the Argentine Army, which opposed any trials for Dirty War human rights abuses and which staged these mutinies periodically in the late 1980s to destabilize the administration of President Raúl Alfonsín.

Alfonsín, elected in 1983, succeeded a military dictatorship under which up to 30,000 dissidents were killed and the economy collapsed under the weight of $30 billion in bad speculative loans. He ordered the regime's leadership tried in 1985 for their abuses, and initially sought the prosecutions of at least 600 other officers; amid pressure from the Carapintadas, however, Alfonsín himself later signed two bills in 1987 granting them amnesty.

Alfonsín's successor, Carlos Menem, pardoned the Carapintadas in 1989 (they nevertheless attempted a mutiny on Army Headquarters the following year).

Despite this background, or, critics charge, because of it, in 2012 Macri (then Mayor of Buenos Aires) chose Gómez Centurión to head the City Government Control Agency, which issues and administers municipal permits and closures. Under Gómez Centurión, the AGCC became notorious for closing dance or music halls over minor issues while ignoring complaints against sweatshops. Macri's wife, Juliana Awada, has been charged numerous times with labor violations related to sweatshops turning out garments for her casual ladies' wear chain, Cheeky.

It was during his tenure at AGCC that the February 2014 Iron Mountain warehouse fire - in which nine firemen and a paramedic died - took place. Massive amounts of documents stored by HSBC Argentina and other institutions under investigation at the time for tax evasion and money laundering was lost as well.

Macri reportedly tapped Gómez Centurión as Defense Minister following his narrow victory in the 2015 presidential race. His involvement in the mutinies against Alfonsín, however, made him unacceptable to the junior partners in Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" coalition, the centrist UCR (to which Alfonsín had belonged). Macri instead chose a former UCR lawmaker, Julio Martínez; but two key positions - Undersecretary of Strategic Planning and Military Policy, and Director of Planning - were filled by associates of Gómez Centurión.

Both these appointees were part of the military policy team of 28 people led by Gómez Centurión for Macri's right-wing think tank Fundación Pensar. Pensar and other think tanks linked to Macri's party, PRO, have recently come under fire after it was revealed that Vice President Michetti had been illegally donating large sums in cash to SUMA - a "think tank" she leads, but with no declared partners or employees.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/elpais/1-307373-2016-08-20.html&prev=search

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Mr. Clean.[/center]

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