It has been 26 years since the journalist Jose Luis Cabezas He was found dead after achieving what until then was a great feat: taking a photo of the businessman Alfredo Yabrana character that nobody wanted to talk about, and whose face was practically unknown.
Back then, the former Minister of Economy, domingo horse, had accused him of managing, through front men, several important companies, and of using them to launder money from the drug and arms tragedy. At that time, Cabezas and his partner at NEWS, the journalist Gabriel Michiwere assigned to cover the season in Pinamar, when Yabrán was on those beaches with his wife, Maria Christina Perez.
In his book, “heads. A journalist, a crime, a country”Michi tells how it was to get the photo for which Cabezas paid with his life: “When with José Luis Cabezas I got the necessary information and he captured the photo of Alfredo Yabrán walking in a relaxed way with his wife Maria Christina Perez by the beaches of pinamar, we knew instantly that this image was one of the greatest journalistic achievements of recent times. Yabrán was the man most wanted by the Argentine press. The faceless man. The most enigmatic and powerful man in the country. The enigma that he had unveiled to so many.”
“The same one who had boasted some time ago that “not even the intelligence services have a photo of me” or who had argued that “taking a photo of me is like shooting myself in the head”, in a synthesis that his enemies They could also be very dangerous. Or a tacit demonstration of their transit through a world where laws are either made to measure or are adulterated at their limits according to the convenience and impunity of power,” Michi recounts in her book.
The journalist details the almost total scarcity of images of Yabrán prior to the photo taken by Cabezas. “There were almost no records prior to the image obtained by Cabezas, except for some very old photographs of the reunion of graduates at the school where he attended high school. Or a very distant shot that NOTICIAS magazine had obtained at the New Year’s Eve festivities in 1995 during the fireworks at the La Pérgola spa, in Valeria del Mar, operated by his local partner, the architect Luis Abruzzesse”says the author.
But taking a picture of the most enigmatic man in the country was not going to be an easy job. Cabezas and Michi had strengthened their network of contacts and had been able to identify the three tents used by the Yabrán family in the spa Marbella, although they knew that Yabrán was not yet in Pinamar. But on Wednesday, February 14, 1996, Michi received a call from one of his most reliable sources: “Gabriel, ‘El Tío’ arrives tomorrow”.
“The uncle” It was one of the elliptical ways in which they mentioned Yabrán, so as not to name him because of the fear he aroused. In addition, there was the possibility that the phones were tapped by intelligence services aligned with the tycoon. According to the information, Yabrán would be the next day at 6:00 p.m. at the spa La Pergola, Valeria del Mar.
That February 15, Cabezas and Michi went to Valeria del Mar after finishing an interview with actor Miguel Ángel Solá. At first there was no movement on the site, but then they decided to go by car through the door of Yabrán’s house, the mansion “Narbai”: There were several 4×4 trucks in his parking lot, and “some guys who wandered around, looking like guards.” Later they passed by again and saw smoke rising from the surrounding trees, announcing a nocturnal barbecue and the possibility that Yabrán would stay there until the next day. Therefore, it was very likely that the tycoon would stay for dinner at his house that first day of his stay in Pinamar.
“It was there that with José Luis we decided that the next day, Friday, February 16, 1996, we were going to stand guard very early to see if we could get the image of the businessman. We were particularly interested in the photo because I had already resolved the investigation into the suspicious investments that Yabrán was making in Pinamar and we only needed the most desired image to illustrate it, ”says Michi in his book.
At 7 in the morning on that Friday, Cabezas and Michi arrived at the place and, taking care that no one in Yabrán’s custody detected them, they climbed a kind of dirt hill 50 meters from the door of the mansion, in a field that It faced Noctilucas street and where the street ended of the mermaidthe same one that ended, at the other end, at the entrance door of Yabrán’s house.
“A few minutes had passed when we saw that Yabrán —against our forecasts— was returning home. He had a black briefcase in his hand and had gotten up earlier than us, to solve who knows what business he had at the spa. The adrenaline and the pulsations of both accelerated. José Luis came to photograph him from behind, entering his house with that briefcase. But just that. They were the first images we obtained of the businessman, but neither he nor I were satisfied. It was too vague a shot and it did not serve the journalistic objective that we were pursuing”, says Michi.
So, both journalists recalculated: Michi went by car down the street From La Ballena, the one from Yabrán’s house, and if he saw him leave he would send a radio message to Cabezas. He parked about 30 meters from the parking lot with three gates from Yabrán’s house, and around 10 o’clock the expected moment occurred: one of the trucks left Ford Ranger and passes by Michi, who hurried to warn Cabezas.
Finally, both journalists went to the complex under construction Golf terraces, that Yabrán was building in that area on Enrique Shaw avenue. They saw the businessman’s truck touring the place outside, he was showing his wife how the works that were taking place behind an exposed brick wall and bars were going. “We were analyzing where we could get a map of the tycoon from, but it was impossible to do it by walking in his vehicle. In that labyrinth of streets we crossed paths at least three times, but there was no way to photograph it”, details Michi.
Then they saw Yabrán entering his mansion again, they supposed to eat. So they decided to suspend the mission for a while, assuming that later they would find him on the beach enjoying the sun. A source had told Michi that Yabrán was “quite strict—and almost martial—with his customs.” “And among them, going to the beach. He told me that Yabrán went religiously around 4:00 p.m. and it was a central piece of information for our search”, says the author in the book.
So at that time, Cabezas, Michi and the latter’s wife at that time, Laura Luz OjedaThey entered Marbella. Cabezas waited in the car and Michi and Ojeda entered the beach, where shortly after they saw a corpulent, tall, gray-haired man approaching, carrying a deck chair in his hands. The man deposits a chair in the sand: it was Yabrán.
Michi went to the car, where Cabezas was waiting, and told him: “I just saw him at the beach. I am almost sure that it is Yabrán, but I need your photographic gaze to make sure of everything”.
The journalists went down the spa next door, Savior Seagull, and they were walking towards where Michi had seen the tycoon: “Yes, it is this one”, confirmed José Luís Cabezas. They returned to the car in search of the photographic equipment and went to the parking lot of Marbella. From there, with a telephoto lens, Yabrán could be seen enjoying the sun in his beach chair.
“José Luis asked me to act as a tripod because with that close-up lens —which is quite heavy on top of that— any movement takes the objective out of focus. My shoulder was the place of support.(…) José Luis thus obtained some shots of Yabrán sitting by the sea in a beach chair, some in which a dog can even be seen passing in front of him. Relaxed and fully enjoying his vacation, the businessman never noticed our presence. The same as his custody, which I would later find out, was also there disguised as tourists and with his weapons hidden among the towels. They never noticed our journalistic work, ”Michi says in his book.
Yabrán eventually left, but the journalists wanted more photos: they went to the adjoining spa where Michi’s wife was and waited. After a while Yabrán returned:
“He was facing a coastal walk but the amount of people and the proximity between the place where the businessman was leaving and ours prevented José Luis from being able to photograph that moment. We decided to wait with the logic of common sense that says that if he left, he has to come back. And that logic worked. We remain attentive looking to the north and after 40 minutes we see in the distance that Yabrán and his wife were approaching where we were and we knew that this was going to be “the” moment. So, with my wife we posed as tourists while José Luis pretended that he was photographing us. But he was actually photographing Yabrán and his wife. Both walking in a relaxed way on the beach. We in a fictitious foreground and in parallel but behind, the real photograph. That of the most enigmatic man in Argentina, enjoying the invisibility that he had built for years, ”Michi narrates the moment in which they got the long-awaited photos.
“They look good close-up, walking. They are es-pec-ta-cu-lar”, Cabezas told Michi when reviewing how the photos had come out, although I regret having missed, for a few minutes, a shot of Yabrán and his wife kissing. “That was José Luis. A perfectionist. An obsessive to always get a little more in his professional work. Our legs were shaking from the achievement. The nervousness that we had during those hours had his reward. That adrenaline that continued but now with the certainty that the goal was achieved, ”Michi wrote in his book, remembering the late journalist and his great feat. However, he did not end there:
“Excited, we wanted more,” Michi clarifies. The next day, Saturday February 16, 1996, Michi and José Luís Cabezas went with family and friends to Salvador Gaviota and rented a tent: the mission was to disguise that they were simply people spending a day at the beach and not “put the public on alert.” Yabranistic environment”.
“Yabrán went down to the beach at about 4:00 p.m. And the strategy was the same. We let him go north when he faced the same walk as the day before. And when he returned, José Luis grabbed his camera with a long lens and, while he pretended to be taking pictures of Cristina and her friends, he actually focused on Yabrán and his wife. These shots were even more frontal than those of the previous day and, with the experience of the previous day, a sharper objective was achieved in this second instance.
At that very moment, José Luis interpreted that this sequence was better than the one from the day before. And he also knew that the journalistic conquest had been completed, ”says Michi. The photo ended up being the cover of NEWS.