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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Kirchner accuses Argentina’s Supreme Court of having “written and signed” its verdict on alleged corruption

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Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner greets President Alberto Fernández during ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of state oil company YPF, June 3, 2022.AGUSTIN MARCARIAN (REUTERS)

Cristina Kirchner has her own priority agenda in Argentina. In a seven-minute video that he uploaded to his social networks on Monday, the vice-president slammed the Supreme Court, which she accused of having “written and, at the time, even signed” a judgment against her. Kirchner’s attention is drawn to the “Autobahn Case,” which investigates the alleged diversion of public works funds in favor of a Kirchnerist businessman imprisoned for money laundering. That number two The government urged political parties to set up a new court to mimic 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, the vice president said, “it will be very difficult to improve people’s living conditions”.

The war between Kirchnerism and the Supreme Court is not new. It began during Cristina Kirchner’s government, when she declared an ambitious judicial reform to be unconstitutional. And it intensified during Mauricio Macri’s tenure, a time when federal courts accelerated dozens of cases against senior Kirchner officials accused of corruption. Kirchner became involved with a dozen causes until 2019 when Alberto Fernández, her political dolphin, came to power. The same judges who prosecuted her closed their investigations one by one; but the “highway thing” survived, where the vice president is more involved.

The accusation sees Kirchner as the head of an illegal association that is supposed to enrich itself with money from public works. On August 1, a prosecutor is due to present evidence incriminating Kirchner and a businessman close to him, Lázaro Báez, who became an overnight millionaire thanks to contracts he won to build highways in Patagonia’s Santa Cross province.

If everything takes its course, Kirchner will be sentenced by the end of the year. On Monday, the vice president announced that the court already has the signature for a sentencing, as she expects. It was the latest chapter in a struggle that runs parallel to other woes in Argentine politics, such as that between Kirchner and President Fernández. Palace disputes grip the country while the economy collapses. This Tuesday, the dollar hit 300 pesos in the informal market, the highest since the 2001 economic debacle. Inflation is now at 64%, with forecasts for December of over 90%.

Kirchner accused the colonel of being part of the problem. And for this he undertook a long historical journey, beginning with what he called “a model court,” that of 2003. It was this court that, for example, overturned the laws of impunity that protected the oppressors of the dictatorship. But the relationship was soon marred by decisions that the Casa Rosada deemed against their best interests. According to Kirchner, the debacle began in 2015 when former President Mauricio Macri appointed two supreme leaders, Horacio Rosatti and Carlos Rosenkrantz, by decree without going through Congress as required by the constitution. “This episode was without a doubt a turning point in the history of Argentine justice and the prelude to the process of political, judicial and media persecution that was unleashed across the region with very clear axes in Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador,” Kirchner said in Video. Months later, Macri’s push-button appointments were approved by the Senate.

The formation of the court was always in the sights of the then government in Argentina. While those in the Casa Rosada try to control them, the opposition sees themselves as victims of their persecution. In July 2020, at the worst moment of the pandemic, President Alberto Fernández introduced a bill that liquidated the powers of federal judges in charge of corruption cases. Meanwhile, an alleged project to increase the number of Supreme Court justices from five to nine, a reform that could open the door to a party-affiliated majority, was already circulating in the press.

None of that happened. Fernández’s law failed in Congress, where it did not have a majority, and the court remained as it was. The economic problems and the struggles in the governing coalition changed the priorities. From the judicial agenda it was handed over to survival. Until this Tuesday, when Kirchner again brought charges against the judges.

For the vice president, the court has turned the judiciary into a “protective political party of macrismo” and “persecutors” of the leaders of other forces. And he criticized the fact that the colonels have successively rejected all the resources presented by their defense attorneys in the “Roadway case,” the only one in which it is judged. “He issued a pre-conviction affidavit, which I said before the hearing on December 1, 2019, she has already written and, I believe, even signed at this point.” He also criticized the move last April that allowed the court to restore the original composition of the Judicial Council, the body responsible for appointing and indicting judges.

President Fernández took nearly 24 hours to comment on his vice president’s video. “I’ve been thinking about the message @CFKArgentina spread yesterday. I have seen many choose to criticize the ways to avoid the real problem we face: our judiciary is delegitimized and in dire need of deep and democratic reform.” Fernandez wrote on Twitter. “The Vice President has confirmed that in one case in which she is being prosecuted and in which the prosecutor has not yet formulated her charges, her verdict has already been written. This allegation brings into crisis the objectivity of the justice system and the moral fitness of the members of the court,” he added.

There was no reply from the court. Nor from the federal courts, the Vice President’s other goal. The opposition has meanwhile sharply 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 than the majority of Argentines”. “She’s worried about her legal case, Argentines are worried about making ends meet,” he told the news channel TN. Patricia Bullrich, president of PRO, Mauricio Macri’s party, wondered what would have happened if the judiciary had attacked the executive “like CFK”. “Wouldn’t he be accused of being a putschist?” he asked.

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