A sinister plan involving the worlds most notorious oligarchs, as well as the IMF and key elements of the global Zionist lobby, lurks beneath the de facto independent state created by one of Englands richest men in the heart of Argentinas Patagonia.
EL BOLSN, ARGENTINAAt the end of the world, spanning the southernmost regions of Argentina and Chile, lies the land of Patagonia, much of which remains a pristine wilderness that has inspired countless naturalists and would-be adventurers with its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty. For many, it is a place that still feels remarkably untouched and removed from the chaos of the modern world.
Yet, it is these very qualities, as well as the regions great oil and gas potential and its abundance of glacier-fed freshwater reserves, that have placed it in the crosshairs of predators predators armed with billions of dollars, powerful influence over Argentine politics and the countrys press, as well as alliances with controversial international financial organizations and key elements of the global Zionist lobby.
Coveted for its still largely unplundered resources, Patagonia has become the target of a close-knit network of notorious billionaires and global elites, who have spent much of the last two and a half decades seeking to transform this area into their own independent state.
Indeed, though several of these billionaires have already createdde factoprivate states where they enjoy near-total impunity within Argentine Patagonia, others have been behind major efforts that have pushed for the territorys secession. Still others have pushed Argentinas government to exchange its claim to Patagonia for debt relief as a way of easing Argentinas economic plight that, incidentally, was largely created by this very same group of billionaires. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose connections to this billionaire network are considerable, has had an outsized role in this effort.
Yet this appears to be more than just a venture on the behalf of notable oligarchs and the global elite, as prominent elements of the international Zionist lobby are intimately involved, as is the state of Israel, though the extent of the involvement of the latter is subject to debate. Their interest revolves around claims that date back to the founding of Zionism in the 19th century, when revered Zionist figures like Theodore Herzl discussed Argentina as a potential homeland for a Jewish ethno-state.
Since then, other notable Zionists, including past Israeli ambassadors to Argentina, have argued that Israel is for European Jews while American Jews must take Argentina for themselves. Notably, the method suggested by Herzl as a means of creating a Zionist state in his seminal work The Jewish State involves the exchange of debt for territory.
In the first part of this investigative series,MintPressexplores thede factoindependent state that has been created by British billionaire and Zionist Joe Lewis, a long-time associate of controversial Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Lewis has essentially bought out the local, regional and even national government of Argentina, allowing him to operate with impunity while he acquires more and more territory through land purchases of dubious (if any) legality, intimidates and threatens locals, usurps crucial water and energy resources from local towns, and operates his own international private airport that no one but he controls.
Subsequent reports in this series will examine the other key players in this effort to create a Patagonian state, namely Argentine oligarchs Marcelo Mindlin and Eduardo Elsztain, who are both deeply connected to the global Zionist lobby and the Rockefeller-founded Americas Society, and are also both close Soros associates. Finally, the role of these individuals and their associates in efforts to use IMF debt slavery to pressure the Argentine government to swap debt for territory will be revealed, as will the role of the Zionist lobby and prominent figures in the global elite.
The quaint mountain town of El Bolsn, nestled among the picturesque rocky peaks of Argentinas Patagonia and famed for its local legends of gnomes and elves, may seem an unlikely epicenter in a nationwide battle that has pitted locals against powerful foreign billionaires billionaires who are not only plundering the countrys rich resources but eroding its national sovereignty through backdoor deals with Argentinas most powerful, and most corrupt, political leaders.
Yet, however unlikely the role of this sleepy town in Argentinas Ro Negro province may seem, for over a decade many locals have used every tool at their disposal to oppose one billionaires effort to turn the town and much of Ro Negro into his own personal fiefdom. This struggle has seen massive demonstrations in El Bolsn against British billionaire Joe Lewis, with some attracting as many as15,000 participants nearly 80 percent of the towns entire population.
Lewis,worth an estimated $5.2 billionaccordingForbes, is best known in the West for owning the British Tottenham Hotspur football club, his sprawling luxury estates and golf resorts in the Bahamas and Florida, andowningwell-known brands including Puma sportswear and Vans shoes. He is often described as a self-made billionaire, having been born to a poor Jewish family in London, who worked his way up to become one of Englands richest men.
Since the mid-1990s, Lewis has been building an empire in Patagonia, having become the owner of extensive properties north of El Bolsn which, among other things, contain almost all of the towns water reserves, as well as those of the nearby farming community, Malln Ahogado and thede factopower behind Pampa Energa, the company controlling most of Argentinas electricity production. Part Two of this series will focus on Lewis role at Pampa Energa, as well as that of his associate, Marcelo Mindlin.
Long before his venture into Argentina, Lewis was a controversial figure owing to his close association with controversial Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Indeed, the bulk of Lewis massive fortune derives from his decision to team up with Soros to bet against the British pound in 1992, a day popularly known as Black Wednesday.
Soros and Lewis bet against the pound actually led to the pound crashing, after Soros ordered his hedge fund to go for the jugular and aggressively trade against the currency, thereby prompting its sharp devaluation. Though Soros is often called the man who broke the Bank of England as a result of the $1 billion in profits he made on that fateful day, Lewis is said to havemade an even larger profitthan Soros, according toseveral reports.
While Soros became a financial celebrity after Black Wednesday, Lewis opted to stay out of the limelight even though, just three years later, he would repeat what he helped do to the British pound with the Mexican peso, reaping yet another massive profit. While the Mexican peso crisis made Lewis even wealthier, it led to a massive jump in poverty, unemployment and inequality in Mexico and left its government beholden to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through a loan package arranged by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Between 1995 and 1996, the severe economic recession that followed the Mexican peso crisis spread throughout the Americas and severely affected the economies of other Latin American countries like Argentina. As fresh economic havoc arrived and took hold in Argentina, Lewis decided to take advantage of the troubled regional economic climate that he himself had helped create and began developing his interests in Patagonia.
As will be explored later in this investigative series, Soros and two of his Argentine associates who are also connected to Lewis Eduardo Elsztain and Marcelo Mindlin took advantage of this economic crisis and subsequent crises to buy major stakes in several banks as well as massive tracts of Argentine real estate, particularly in Patagonia.
In 1996, Joe Lewis returned to Argentina after initially visiting the country in 1992 at the invitation of Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer. Lewis, apparently inspired by his first visit, had decided to buy property in the area. According to regional media outletEl Patagnico, Lewis dream was not just owning his piece of paradise, but creating his own state in Patagonia.
Lewis soon came into contact with Nicols Van Ditmar, who would not only facilitate Lewis initial and subsequent land purchases in Argentinas Patagonia but would also do so for several other foreign oligarchs. Van Ditmar had previously arranged massive land sales farther south to the Benetton Group, the family company run by the Italian oligarchs of the same name, best known as the owners of the United Colors of Benetton clothing company.
Van Ditmar, after learning of what Lewis hoped to acquire, spoke to him of the property of the Montero family, which encircled a pristine mountain lake known as Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake). Most of the members of the Montero family agreed to sell their collective property of around 14,000 hectares (~34,549 acres) to Lewis for $7 million. However, one of the Montero brothers, Irineo Montero, had refused and he, along with his wife Mara Ortiz and their employee Jos Matamala,were all found deadunder mysterious circumstances.
An aerial photograph Joe Lewis ranch on Hidden Lake, March 1, 2010 in southern Patagonia, Argentina. Francisco Bedeschi dpa
Whether or not Lewis or his right hand man Van Ditmar were somehow involved in Irineos death and those of his wife and employee, there is no denying that their mysterious yet grisly endings cleared the way for Lewis purchase of Lago Escondido and the surrounding area. However, Lewis acquisition of this property, irrespective of the remaining Montero siblings willingness to sell, should never have been allowed for several reasons.
First, as per Argentine law, the sale of the property that Lewis has owned since 1996 is prohibited to a foreign citizen on national security grounds, given that the property is just 20 km from the Chilean border and thus, in foreign hands, could represent a grave national security risk. Second, it violates a local law dating back to 1969 that caps the maximum amount of land that any individual Argentine citizen or foreigner may own at around 70 hectares (~172 acres).
Third, it violatesa provincial lawpassed in 1994 that created a protected natural area called the Ro Azul Lago Escondido Natural Protected Area (ANPRALE), which included a significant portion of the land that Lewis would later buy from the Monteros. However, that law was amended in 1998, a few years after Lewis purchase, to remove the portion of his land that had previously been named a protected area under the control of the state. Federico Soria noted that the way in which the 1994 law was amended wasblatantly unconstitutional.
One would think that the law would have prevented Lewis acquisition of the land long before Van Ditmar had first approached the Monteros about Lewis interest in the land. However, he was explicitly allowed to do so, despite the illegal nature of the purchase, owing to the general laxity of the local, regional and federal authorities towards wealthy foreigners looking to acquire Argentine land. As Lewis himself said inan interviewwith Gonzalo Sanchez in 2004, I bought what they let me buy and here we are.
The two-term presidency of Carlos Menem in the 1990s marked the reversal of more than 50 years of keeping and protecting areas of national importance and deemed strategic to natural security by permitting foreigners to buy a larger percentage of land than had been allowed since the passage ofa 1944 lawintended to preserve the territorial integrity of Argentina. Notably, when that law was created, the government of Edelmiro Farrell and Juan Pern expropriated several strategic properties owned by foreigners.
Yet, Menems presidency which was thoroughly aligned with the Washington consensus began, according to critics, violating the spirit of this 1944 law by issuing approvals of several million hectares to foreigners. Menems policies favoring foreign land purchases in rural areas have since beenexpanded bythe presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as well as that of the current president of Argentina,Mauricio Macri. Both of them have used Lewis private helicopter and Macri isa regular visitorof Lewis lakeside property in Patagonia.
Locals in El Bolsn have claimed that Lewis purchase of the Lago Escondido property despite the legal obstacles was the direct result of Menems policies. A member of El Bolsns community radio stationFM Alas,who chose to remain anonymous owing to his fathers personal involvement in Lewis regional businesses, toldMintPressthat Lewis had negotiated the purchase of the [Lago Escondido] property in meetings at the Casa Rosada [Pink House], the Argentine equivalent of the White House, during Menems presidency.
MintPresswas unable to confirm whether Lewis or his associates had visited the Casa Rosada while negotiating the propertys purchase. Yet Lewis has stated in interviews that Menem sent us greetings and his best wishes when we opened [Lewis Lago Escondido mansion] (Sanchez interview,pg. 61). Furthermore, Lewis has a notable habit of building close relationships with powerful Argentine politicians, including Macri. Macrihas calledLewis a friend, defended him repeatedly, and even personallyvacationedat Lewis Lago Escondido property.
Ever since his arrival to the area caused concern among some locals, Lewis has sought to win the good graces of the people of El Bolsn by acting as their benefactor donating hospitals, building soccer fields and hosting annual activities and sporting competitions for locals at his property. This altruism is either embraced or rejected by locals, depending on whom you talk to. In keeping with the image that he has sought to cultivate among the townspeople, Lewis is often referred to as Uncle Joe, though it is spoken with either respect and admiration or derision and disgust.
Felicitas Libano, a member of the Assembly for the Defense of Water and Land (ADAT), toldMintPressthat Lewis has integrated himself into nearly all the function of the city, including its firefighters, police and other areas of the municipal government, and has always tried to position himself as a benefactor. According to Guido Augello, a member of local community radio stationFM Alas, the townspeople are divided somewhat evenly into people that like Uncle Joe, people who hate him and people who dont care.
Lewis has also won over a portion of the townspeople and local businessmen through his patronage of select local services and his occasional hosting of small groups of locals for invitation-only sporting events and holiday celebrations. However, some have contended that Lewis receives many foreign guests, particularly from Israel.
According to the research of former French intelligence officer turned journalist Thierry Meyssan, Lewis has been inviting thousands of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers to his territory annually. In late 2017, Meyssanalleged:
Since the Falklands War, the Israeli army has been organizing holiday camps in Patagonia for its soldiers. Between 8,000 and 10,000 of them now come every year to spend two weeks on Joe Lewis land.
It is unclear if Meyssans information was the result of his time in Frances exterior intelligence service DGSE or independent research he conducted since becoming a journalist, asMintPressefforts to contact Meyssan were unsuccessful. Locals, journalists and researchers interviewed byMintPresscould not confirm Meyssans claims. Yet, many of these locals and researchers said they had heard of those claims from other sources within Argentina, but also noted that they were speculative, given that no one but Lewis or his employees knows who visits the property beyond the aforementioned events where select locals are invited to attend.
The Tacuifi road leading to Lago Escondido, now blocked to public access, lies off of Km. 92 on Argentinas Route 40. The sign mentions the 2009 Supreme Court ruling demanding the still-closed road be opened to the public. Photo Revista Anfibia
Beyond the alleged IDF vacations on Lewis land, his presence in the area has been controversial for other reasons, namely for concerns that he sought to usurp key regional resources. Indeed, journalist Gonzalo Sanchez noted in his 2004 bookPatagonia Sold: The New Owners of the Land:
In El Bolsn, there are more than a few locals and city council members that believe that, behind his [Lewis] generosity, there are other hidden objectives, like the possible control of the water reserves of this part of Patagonia (pg. 50).
Inklings of the truth in relation to these concerns were evident as soon as Lewis acquired the property surrounding Lago Escondido. This large mountain lake, which Lewis property surrounds, is thewater basinfor two important regional rivers, the Manso and Puelo, which later unite in Chile and drain into the Pacific. It is also the lake the feeds other nearby lakes including the Soberana Lakes and Montes Lake, among others. Lago Escondido itself is estimated to contain as many as 400 billion liters (~105 billion gallons) of freshwater.
In Argentina, as is also the case in neighboring Chile, water whether in lakes, rivers or seas is a public right and public access to all bodies of water is guaranteed by law. This legal concept likely foreign to Lewis and other Westerners, whose home countries often enshrine private property rights over the publics right to vital resources has been the most visible way in which tensions between Lewis and locals have manifested. It was also the first real test of Lewis resolve to carve out his independent state in Patagonia and keep locals out.
Lewis closed off the public road from the highway to the lake and also closed the private road he built at a separate point from public access. According to several locals interviewed byMintPresswho had tried to enter the area, private security in civilian clothing prevent people from using the roads either by vehicle or on foot. Federico Soria, who has himself tried to enter the area on several occasions, described the guards toMintPressas intimidating and aggressive and also said that the Montero family, the old owners of the land, block one of the roads before it enters Lewis property and are heavily armed.
The only remaining path is a steep and in places, dangerous mountain path that takes at least two days in each direction to traverse. The path is poorly marked and maintained and is only usable in summer, as it is blocked by snowfall in other seasons. Every person interviewed byMintPresswho had seen or traversed the path described it as being suitable only for experienced mountaineers.
In 2009, Lewis suffered his first major defeat in his efforts to keep locals out of his parallel state when the regional courtruledthat the Tacuifi road which connects the lake to the main highway, Route 40, and crosses Lewis property be opened. The ruling stated that this must be done in order to ensure access to Lago Escondido with appropriate signaling and ensuring transability. The court gave Lewis 120 days to comply.
However, he didnt comply and instead his regional associates began openly threatening any who tried to visit his lake. The clearest threat came from Van Dittmar himself in 2011, when hepublicly statedthat he and other Hidden Lake S.A. employees would defend Lewis private property by fighting with blood, if we have to. Van Ditmar also said that he would keep locals from accessing the lake with a Winchester [rifle] in hand, with blood if necessary.
In 2012, the regions Supreme Court upheld the 2009 ruling, as did Argentinas nationalSupreme Courta year later. However, Lewis and Van Ditmar refused to open the Tacuifi road, Van Ditmar saying that the treacherous but very pretty mountain path should instead be used to access the lake. Argentine President Macrialso stepped inand echoed Van Ditmar, stating that the lake is even more accessible than before Lewis bought the property.
The court battle continues to today, after the Supreme Court of Ro Negro in 2016 withdrew its previous ruling and ordered that a new hearing with different judges issue a new ruling.Criticsaccused Lewis of using extreme political pressure at the regional and local level in order achieve this very surprising ruling.
Despite that, locals continue to fight for public access to Lago Escondido and defend Argentinas sovereignty over Lewis private empire. The main manifestation of this effort is an annual March for Sovereignty, the most recent of which took place in early February of this year. The march is organized by the Foundation for the Cultural Integration and Promotion of Water (FIPCA), which is run by former Argentine marine Julio Cesr Urien. Like the prior marches of the same name, its participants walked for nearly three days on foot over the mountain trail to arrive on the shore of the lake, which as mentioned above they were within their legal rights to do.
Participants in the 2019 March for Sovereignty pose for a picture at the beginning of their several-day journey to reach Lago Escondido by foot. Photo FIPCA PRENSA
Upon arriving, they were met by Lewis private security as well as members of the Ro Negro police, who cornered them and told them that they couldnt even go to the bathroom without fear of arrest for trespassing, even though lakeshores are also legally considered public spaces. Guillermo Martn Caviasc a journalist forBarricada TV,who was present at the demonstration calledthe combination of local police and private security Lewis private army and remarked that the police officers present where in a situation of subordination like if they were visiting a foreign state controlled by Lewis.
Two participants in the march, Andrea Gatabria and David Ramallo, mounted inflatable kayaks with the intention of placing an Argentine flag in a small island in the middle of the lake, itself technically a public space. Before they made it to the island, two speedboats belonging to Hidden Lake S.A. circled the kayaks in an effort to capsize them while taunting them, asking Do you know what its like to die from hypothermia?
Participants in the 2019 March for Sovereignty pose for a picture at the beginning of their several-day journey to reach Lago Escondido by foot. Photo FIPCA PRENSA
After half an hour of taunts that seemed more like death threats, Lewis private security knocked over the kayaks, leaving Gatabria and Ramallo floating in the freezing water. After several minutes, several witnessesstatedthat one of the security guards told the two kayakers Well, now do you see what its like to die of hypothermia? Gatabria and Ramallo were, after some time, lifted into the guard boats, but had spent so much time in the frigid water that both had to be hospitalized.
National Senator for Ro Negro, Magdalena Odarda, demanded accountability for the actions of Lewis private security and local police and FIPCA has begun legal action against Hidden Lake S.A. for threatening the lives of march participants. Neither Hidden Lake S.A. nor Lewis Tavistock Group, which oversees his business interests in Argentina and elsewhere, responded toMintPressinquiries regarding the incidents against march participants.
While Argentines have routinely experienced intimidation and aggression when attempting to access the lake, some foreigners have had very different experiences. Take, for instance, Scott Leahy*, an American now living in Chile, who, during a past trip to El Bolsn, was able to waltz right through onto Lewis Lago Escondido property when he was in the company of two ex-IDF soldiers who had been there before.
Leahy toldMintPressthat when he was backpacking through Argentine Patagonia in 2010 with a Chilean friend, he had met and become friends with two young Israelis who had recently finished their service in the IDF and were staying at the same youth hostel. One day, these two Israelis offered to take Leahy and his friend to what they called a secret beach nearby.
They all piled into a car and, upon taking a gravel road off of Route 40, arrived at a gate that Leahy confirmed toMintPresswas the Tacuifi road entrance to Lewis Lago Escondido property (seen in an image earlier in this report). Leahy was unsure about continuing, given that the gate was closed and, as a foreigner, he was unfamiliar with the area. However, the Israelis urged him on, saying that they had been there before and knew where they were going.
When the group of backpackers encountered Hidden Lake S.A. employees and guards, the Israelis explained that they were from Israel and wanted to bring their friends to the beach. The Lago Escondido employees told the pair that the group was notofficiallyallowed to enter the property, but they could pass. Leahy didnt think anything of it at the time, and toldMintPressthat he had assumed the pair knew the owner, though the Israelis never mentioned Lewis at all and they showed no interest in meeting with him either. This suggests that they were not personal friends of Lewis, but also shows that they knew that they could access the lake without problem, even in the absence of a formal invitation.
While this anecdote suggests that the claims of Lewis hosting thousands of IDF soldiers annually may indeed have something to them, it also serves as a very troubling comparison to the way Argentines have been treated when trying to access the very same lake. Indeed, if foreigners, Israelis in this case, were amicably waved through despite no invitation from Lewis or Hidden Lake S.A., why are Argentines who try to do the same met with such violence and aggression, particularly when they have a legal right to do so?
Though public access to Lago Escondido has been a major issue of contention between Lewis and the people of El Bolsn since the late 1990s, concerns that the British billionaire was intent on controlling the regions water supply multiplied when firms connected to Lewis began to move forward with what is often referred to as simply the Laderas project.
As early as 2004, a man named Cipriano Soria started telling his neighbors that he had sold his land in an area known as Pampa de Ludden (Luddens Plain) to Lewis. However, Soria did not technicallyownthe land, which was a publicly-owned nature reserve, but was granted an easement by the provincial government of Ro Negro to use its meadows to graze his livestock as long as he paid a grazing license. Despite the fact that it was neither legally nor properly sold to Lewis, Lewis began to make plans for the land plans that ignored the fact that the area was and technically remains under several legal protections due to its ecological and strategic importance to the region.
Lewis intended to use this land to build a private airport in the area but was met by strong local resistance in 2005, including from the local group Assembly for the Defense of Water and Land (ADAT). Several members of ADAT live in Malln Ahogado next to Pampa de Ludden, which provides the adjacent farming community of 2,000 with nearly all of its water. Felicitas Libano, who lives in Malln Ahogado, toldMintPressthat the importance of this area as a critical water resource as well as its ecological importance as an old-growth native forest led it to be named a nature reserve that was supposed to be prevented from falling into private hands.
ADATs eforts were successful and Lewis plan for the area seemed to have been defeated or, at least, put on hold. Then, in 2009, the town voted on Lewis private airport, with more than79 percent of votersopposing it. However, unluckily for the people of El Bolsn, Lewis had much bigger plans than just an airport and he wasnt planning on letting local democracy get in his way.
Fro 2006 to 2009, legal arrangements were made between the ski centers owner, the Club Andino Piltriquitrn, and the provincial government that opened up the local ski center at the Perito Moreno mountain to third party management.
Then, in 2009, Mirta Soria, Ciprianos daughter, inherited the land from her father land that he technically did not own yet was somehow granted permission to purchase from the state, along with another protected territory between Pampa de Ludden and the ski center, even though the state was forbidden from doing so by regional and local laws. Just six months after she bought this territory and sold more than half of it to Van Ditmars brother-in-law Samy Mazza. This new and very large area under Van Ditmar/Lewis control is where El Bolsns, in addition Mallin Ahogados, water reserves are located.
Soon after the land purchase occurred, two businesses appeared Laderas of Perito Moreno Association S.A. and Laderas of Parallel 42, both of which aredirectly connected to Lewisand were given ownership of the lands in Pampa de Ludden and the other area recently purchased by Van Ditmars relative. That same year, both of these linked businesses proposed a lottery whereby the provincial government would select a private company to manage the local ski center. Laderas of Parallel 42 won the lottery.
Subsequently, the other Laderas company, Laderas of Perito Moreno, began plans to transform the land illegally acquired by Van Ditmars brother-in-law, Samy Mazza, as well as the portion still owned by Mirta Soria into a lux