José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz was, undoubtedly, the most investigated person in Argentine history. No other citizen –whether public official, businessman, military or otherwise- was scrutinized as he was in relation to his assets, performance in office and private life, to an extent such that more than 12 criminal cases were initiated against him after he finished his term as Minister of Economy in 1981. However, in none of those cases was Martinez de Hoz accused of dishonesty or personal enrichment. In reality judicial courts were used to channel–by way of criminal actions- what actually amounted to objections to the economic policy or government decisions or to what he represented in political terms.
Between 1982 and 1986, a profuse investigation was conducted over an alleged “mismanagement” of YPF (the state oil company), in a proceeding where anything that “smelled of oil” –in the words of the prosecutor- was included. In December 1982 the federal judge hearing the case issued -for publicity-seeking purposes- an order of indictment against Martinez de Hoz;, forty-eight hours later the judge presented his resignation and travelled abroad. Mr. Martínez de Hoz was also investigated in relation to the external debt. In the Austral Líneas Aéreas case, an objection was raised against the former Minister in relation to the airline’s nationalization –which had been ordered to avoid its imminent bankruptcy and to guarantee the continuity of its services with a view to its future privatization. In all these cases Martínez de Hoz was acquitted by judges designated during democratic times.
Simultaneously, the case of Compañía Ítalo Argentina de Electricidad (which “Argentinization” had been announced by President Isabel Martínez de Perón in 1975 and the transfer to the State completed during the military administration) acquired special notoriety due to the publicized intervention of the Investigation Committee of the House of Representatives (1984/85) before which Martínez de Hoz testified twice for 12 hours. Though upon taking office Minister Martínez de Hoz excused himself from participating in the negotiations related to the transfer of “Italo” to the State (excusation that was accepted and was complied with), and of having evidenced his innocence –before the referred Investigation Committee- he was incarcerated for a short period in relation to this case and a criminal action was brought against him; . Martínez de Hoz was also acquitted in this case several years later.
Additionally, the expert opinions evidenced that the price paid by the State had been reasonable.
The political propaganda, but particularly the one launched by the Kirchners’ Administration, could not stand the fact that Martínez de Hoz had proved innocent as to all charges, whilst complaints were being filed against such Administration’s own officers. Thus, amidst pressures exerted on the judiciary, Martinez de Hoz’s long-standing political enemies (particularly those who in the 70s –acting through ERP and Montoneros terrorist organizations- had attempted to kill him on several occasions) now in Government and others, who joined them for ideological sympathy, brought a series of accusations that constitute a collection of legal atrocities.
Moreover, after 2006 some cases which had already been closed after Martínez de Hoz was exonerated, were re-opened, in violation of the most basic constitutional guarantees.
Many judicial aberrations were committed in the name of an alleged defense of human rights, just for the sake of violating Martinez de Hoz’s human rights. Paradoxically, the new wave of persecutions was conducted by judges who had proclaimed an absolute respect for the rule of law, but that, in order to please the government, trampled over all what they had previously written, thus violating the laws and the Constitution.
As explained, during the 80’s Martínez de Hoz has been subject to more than a dozen criminal investigations. He never left Argentina or refused to provide explanations. All those criminal proceedings against Martinez de Hoz were dismissed with prejudice or acquitted after long years of extensive investigation. Since no single indicia of dishonesty could be found in Martínez de Hoz, the Kirchners’ Administration sought to involve him in “crimes against humanity”, in spite of the fact that the former Minister of Economy had no relation whatsoever with the –lawful or unlawful- counter-insurrection measures adopted from 1976 to 1983. Accusing Martínez de Hoz of crimes against humanity was a means to avoid the fact that the new accusations were time barred, and to imprison him. Accordingly, old court files, that were long ago closed, were dusted off and used, without a shred of new evidence, to accuse Martínez de Hoz in cases which had been adjudicated 25 years ago by courts existing at the time of democracy and that had decided that Martínez de Hoz was completely unrelated to the events investigated in such cases.
The absurdity went as far as accusing Martínez de Hoz of crimes against humanity for events occurred prior to his term in office. An example of this is the Acindar case in which Martínez de Hoz was charged of having conspired in 1975 with the government of Isabel Martínez de Perón to imprison union activists in Villa Constitución (this is the location of the plant of Acindar, a company of which Martínez de Hoz was president before taking office as Ministry of Economy in 1976). This, in spite of the obvious fact that Martínez de Hoz never had, at any time, authority over police, military or security forces, and moreover held no public office whatsoever at that time (1975), nor had any kind of relationship with the former government.
Additionally, a short chronology evidences that the cases against Martínez de Hoz were activated each time the Kirchners’ administrations were facing special political situations, either in times of euphoria or in times of adversity. Some of the cases that were taken as an excuse to persecute the former Minister, were:
Gutheim, Casariego de Bel and Saiegh.