Judges order raids on government warehouses amid undelivered food scandal

Over 300,000 kilograms of milk powder about to expire were found in Villa Martelli

A Human Capital Ministry’s food warehouse in Villa Martelli, Buenos Aires province, was raided on Saturday afternoon due to inconsistencies in the stock information provided by the government. A warehouse in Tafí Viejo, Tucumán, was raided earlier that day amid the scandal of undelivered food destined for soup kitchens.

Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello ordered the Villa Martelli raid given the need to “corroborate the stock data — as well as expiring date and state — of the stored food”, he said in the decision’s document. He added that this request is backed by “the elemental principle of responsibility and transparency, along with the right to access public information.”

According to El Destape, the news outlet that originally revealed the existence of the undelivered food and found over 300,000 kilograms of milk powder with July expiration dates.

The ruling came as part of an investigation into abuse of authority and violation of a public official’s duties that began after a complaint by social leader Juan Grabois, who reported over 5 million kilograms of food stored in the Human Capital Ministry’s storehouses. The food, according to Grabois, would expire if not delivered soon. 

Federal Police carried out the raid to register what products there are, their brand, amount, expiration date, and their current state to see if they match what the ministry informed on three prior occasions. “There is a considerable difference that is not being explained,” the document said.

According to data disclosed by the ministry included in Casanello’s document, there is no oil, wheat flour, or lentil and the remaining 40 kg of rice and other vegetables have expired. It also states that from April 30 onwards, there have only been seven deliveries of 37,500 kilograms of unspecified food. There were also internal movements of oil and tomato puree, but it’s not clear where those products ended up.

Earlier on Saturday, Tucumán province judiciary ordered a raid on another storage house in Tafí Viejo. Presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni said “No expired [food] was found, much less products in bad conservation conditions.”

According to the Herald’s sister publication Ámbito, police verified there were over 2.7 million kilograms of food, of which around two million are good to be distributed immediately. However, 600,000 products are being studied for quality control.

On Monday, Casanello ordered the Human Capital Ministry to distribute the stored food: the ministry won an appeal against it and still needs to provide the requisite distribution plan. Government representatives first denied that the food was close to expiring and rejected delivering it, claiming it was reserved for emergencies. 

However, on Wednesday the ministry recognized the existence of thousands of kilograms of food sitting in government warehouses and announced that the Army would be distributing them: they didn’t clarify how, when or to whom.

The ministry also said it would “limit the powers” of the employees responsible for monitoring the food’s conditions, adding that they engaged in “poor performance of their duties.” Pablo de la Torre, head of the ministry’s  Childhood, Adolescence, and Family Secretary, was fired on Thursday for not adequately monitoring the expiring food.

Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello filed a legal complaint against de la Torre on Friday for an alleged embezzlement scheme involving ministry contracts. According to Argentine media reports, these contracts were sometimes issued to people who did not exist or to collect kickbacks from those obtaining them.

Public officials, including President Javier Milei, have taken to social media to defend Pettovello. “Attacks against Pettovello reveal the miserable way in which politics operate. They find a noble cause and manufacture a mountain of corrupt business,” he wrote Sunday morning on X, calling those who went against her “immoral, hypocrites, thieves and liars.”

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