Hypocrisy all around. Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio accuses former president and Senator-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of high treason for signing a controversial Memorandum with Iran that passed through Congress in 2013. Bonadio asks the Senate to strip her of congressional immunity, 72 hours before she is set to take office; CFK had been out of office, and immunity, for two years. Bonadio, the acting federal judge with the highest number of complaints in the Magistrates’ Court, files for retirement which should begin in January. Cristina denounces Macri and accuses the Judiciary of going on a witch hunt, claiming her administration would’ve never done such a thing. Macri, through Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña, claims the issue is “strictly judicial” and that they do not “manipulate the Judiciary.”
Since Mauricio Macri was sworn in as president, the judicial situation of those close to the Kirchnerite administrations became increasingly fragile. This was expected, as there is ample evidence of widespread public-private corruption all the way up to the highest levels of government. Cristina and her family saw their fortunes multiply many times over, her ministers owned yachts and mansions — and impressively full safety deposit boxes — a second-level public servant was caught throwing duffle bags of dollars into convents, friendly union leaders raided the coffers of their organisations to buy fleets of luxury cars, and the list goes on.
That is why it is painful to see how the supposedly independent and impartial Judiciary has acted since it became clear that the Kirchnerites had begun to lose power and influence. For years, the 12 federal judges ruled in favour of the Kirchners, clearing them and their acolytes of every accusation brought against them. Today, those same judges are using the controversial legal concept of preventative detention to put all of them behind bars, securing the coveted photographs of Néstor and Cristina’s Cabinet members handcuffed, wearing helmets and bulletproof vests as they are rushed into the Comodoro Py courthouse by an army of well-armed security officers.
Judge Bonadio’s actions appear reckless to the point that they could end up having the opposite of their intended effect, strengthening Cristina’s position at her politically weakest moment in over a decade. Bonadio, who is also the judge in charge of a corruption case targeting CFK known as “Hotesur,” decided to pursue the hypothesis of AMIA Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman and to accuse CFK, her Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and a series of secondary characters of high treason. Looking to secure her imprisonment, Bonadio went out on a limb, basing his ruling on shaky legal grounds. Beyond the veracity of Nisman’s claims – which suggest CFK and Timerman secretly negotiated impunity for high-level Iranians accused of having perpetrated the twin AMIA and Isareli Embassy terrorist bombings in exchange for crude oil and hard currency – accusing an ex-president of high treason while asking for the Senate to strip her of immunity is an absolute long shot. Proving the accusations of graft against CFK would’ve been much more powerful, and probably more attainable from a legal standpoint.
Furthermore, Judge Bonadio’s track record taints the process, rendering the use of preventative detention as suspiciously arbitrary. In the context of the Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) corruption probe in Brazil, Curitiba-Judge Serio Moro has successfully used preventative prison terms along with a sort of plea bargain (delación premiada) in order to prosecute hundreds of businessmen and politicians that formed part of a widespread network of publicprivate corruption. Moro put the accused behind bars to avoid them taking flight, to protect evidence, and to extract further evidence, and to do so he put his untarnished reputation on the line.
With Bonadio, preventative prison orders reek of revenge. The Federal Judge has a history of partiality, having been named in the famous “Corach napkin” which listed judges that were functional to then-president Carlos Menem. Bonadio was also removed from the AMIA II case which investigated the alleged cover-up and use of false evidence for failing to move the case forward. One of the accused was Carlos Corach, Menem’s Interior Ministry and one of Bonadio’s political mentors. Moving past a vindictive federal judge that is on the way out, it’s clear that both Cristina and Macri are playing their political cards. It is well known that the Macri administration has judicial operatives, from Elisa Carrio to Boca Juniors president Daniel Angelici. Polarisation against CFK has been their political strategy from day one. And, what can we say about Cristina? Hearing her complain about inflation and denouncing political persecution reminds me of Shakespeare’s “honest Iago” in Othello. As things stand, they could share a similar fate.