Cristina Kirchner has her own priority agenda in Argentina. In a seven-minute video that he uploaded on his social networks on Monday, the vice president harshly attacked the Supreme Court, which she accused of having “written and, at this point, even signed” a sentence against her. Kirchner’s attention is focused on the “highway cause”, which investigates the alleged diversion of funds from public works in favor of a Kirchnerist businessman who is in prison for money laundering. The number two of the Government exhorted the political parties to build a new court that emulates the one promoted by her husband, former president Néstor Kirchner, in 2003, to put an end to the so-called “automatic majority” of the Menemist Court of the 1990s. With the current court, said the vice president, “it will be very difficult to improve the living conditions” of the people.
The war between Kirchnerism and the Supreme Court is not new. It began during the government of Cristina Kirchner, when she declared an ambitious judicial reform unconstitutional. And it intensified during the administration of Mauricio Macri, a period in which the federal courts accelerated dozens of files against high-ranking Kirchner officials accused of corruption. Kirchner was involved in a dozen causes, until in 2019 Alberto Fernández, her political dolphin, came to power. The same judges who persecuted her filed her investigations one by one; but the “highway cause” survived, where the vice president is more committed.
The accusation considers Kirchner head of an illicit association in charge of enriching himself with money from public works. On August 1, a prosecutor will have to show the evidence that incriminates Kirchner and a businessman close to him, Lázaro Báez, who overnight became a millionaire thanks to the contracts he obtained to build highways in the Patagonian province of Santa Cross.
If everything follows its course, the sentence against Kirchner will be ready by the end of the year. On Monday, the vice president denounced that the Court has already signed what she anticipates will be a conviction. It has been the latest chapter in a battle that runs parallel to other miseries in Argentine politics, such as the one between Kirchner and President Fernández. Palace disputes have the country on edge, while the economy collapses. This Tuesday, the price of the dollar in the informal market reached 300 pesos, its highest value since the economic debacle of 2001. Inflation, meanwhile, reaches 64%, with forecasts above 90% for December.
Kirchner accused the supreme of being part of the problem. And for this he made a long historical journey that starts with what he called “an exemplary Court”, that of 2003. That Court was the one that repealed, for example, the laws of impunity that protected the repressors of the dictatorship. But the relationship was soon damaged by rulings that the Casa Rosada considered contrary to its interests. The debacle, according to Kirchner, began in 2015, when former President Mauricio Macri appointed two supreme leaders, Horacio Rosatti and Carlos Rosenkrantz, by decree, without passing through Congress, as required by the Constitution. “This episode was, without a doubt, a turning point in the history of the Argentine Judiciary and the prelude to the process of political, judicial and media persecution that was unleashed throughout the region with very clear axes in Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador. Kirchner said in the video. Months later, those fingertip appointments made by Macri were approved by the Senate.
The formation of the Court was always in the sights of the Government of the day in Argentina. While those in the Casa Rosada try to control it, those in the opposition consider themselves victims of their persecution. In July 2020, at the worst moment of the pandemic, President Alberto Fernández presented a bill that liquefied the power of federal judges, in charge of corruption cases. Meanwhile, an alleged project was already circulating in the press to raise the number of judges on the Supreme Court from five to nine, a reform that could have opened the door to a majority related to the ruling party.
None of that happened. Fernández’s law ran aground in Congress, where it did not have a majority, and the Court remained as it was. The economic problems and the fights in the government coalition changed the priorities. From the judicial agenda it was passed to survival. Until this Tuesday, when Kirchner returned to the charge against the judges.
For the vice president, the Court has turned the Judiciary into a “protective political party of macrismo” and “persecutor” of the leaders of other forces. And she criticized that the supreme ones have rejected one by one all the resources that her defenders presented in the “Roadway case”, the only one in which she is being judged. “He gave an advance endorsement for the conviction that, as I said on December 1, 2019 before the Oral Court, they already have it written and I think, at this point, even signed.” She also criticized the move that last April allowed the Court to recover the original composition of the Judicial Council, the body in charge of appointing and prosecuting judges.
I have reflected on the message you spread yesterday @CFKArgentina.
I have seen that many choose to criticize the ways to avoid the real problem we face: our justice is delegitimized and urgently needs a profound and democratic reform. https://t.co/DBF38JuBLp
– Alberto Fernández (@alferdez) July 19, 2022
President Fernández took almost 24 hours to comment on the video of his vice president. “I have reflected on the message that @CFKArgentina spread yesterday. I have seen that many choose to criticize the ways to avoid the real problem we face: our justice is delegitimized and urgently needs a deep and democratic reform”, Fernandez wrote on Twitter. “The vice president has affirmed that in a case in which she is being prosecuted and in which the prosecutor has not yet formulated her accusation, her sentence is already written. That statement puts the objectivity of the justice system and the moral suitability of the members of the court in crisis,” she added.
There has been no response from the Court. Nor from the federal courts, the other objective of the vice president. The opposition, meanwhile, has harshly criticized the video. The former governor of the province of Buenos Aires, the macrista María Eugenia Vidal, said that “it reflects a vice that has different emergencies from those of the majority of Argentines.” “She is worried about her legal case, Argentines are worried about how to make ends meet,” she told the news channel TN. Patricia Bullrich, president of the PRO, Mauricio Macri’s party, wondered what would have happened if the Judiciary attacked the Executive Power “as CFK did.” “Wouldn’t he be accused of being a coup plotter?” she posed.
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