Not content with a decade of denouncing Kirchnerite graft, maverick government deputy Elisa Carrió is now hot on the trail of Justice Minister Germán Garavano, accusing him of going soft on two former presidents whom she sees as corrupt: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007- 2015) and Carlos Menem (1989-1999), both now serving senators.
This week, Carrió even threatened to impeach Garavano, who was appointed to his post by President Mauricio Macri in December, 2015.
On Thursday, the leader of the Civic Coalition (one of the three main components of the Cambiemos ruling alliance) escalated her reproaches to the head of state, urging him not to “return to the past” and reminding him that the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition was founded on the basis of an agreement to “end corruption and impunity forever.”
According to Carrió, this pledge is being betrayed by a government sector which places “political convenience above truth and justice,” citing spin doctors that view Fernández de Kirchner (whose approval ratings of 37 percent virtually ensure she would reach a run-off while negative figures of 59 percent would equally promise her defeat) as the ideal rival in next year’s presidential election for President Macri, who would run a strong risk of losing the second round against almost anybody else.
Fernández de Kirchner, a senator for Buenos Aires province, faces a panoply of corruption charges which could see her stripped of her parliamentary immunity and sent to prison, thus being disqualified from any presidential candidacy, but that would be entirely contrary to these calculations – hence the political pressures to soft-pedal the trials facing her, of which Garavano has become an explicit instrument according to Carrió.
RADICALS AND MACHISMO
The firebrand politician not only accused the PRO party (the centre-right core of Cambiemos founded by Macri himself) of failing to back her impeachment drive but also the third member of the coalition – the Radicals, where she started her political career – of standing by. Carrió even said she saw machismo in the comments of a Radical spokesman that she was flying off the handle with an unviable impeachment bid, adding that she would be lodging a lawsuit.
The impeachment request was “irrevocable,” she insisted.
Garavano said that he had “no reproaches” to make against Carrió but had “every respect,” adding that he was ready to explain himself if the impeachment request went ahead.
He admitted that some “possibly unfortunate” remarks of his could have given Carrió ammunition for criticism, such as “it is never good for a country to have an ex-president arrested” and “it is more important to have more trials than people remanded in custody.” But in the final analysis it was always going to be the judges who decided guilt or innocence, not his ministry, Garavano countered.
Carrió’s charges that Garavano also showed complacency over Menem’s impunity gained fresh impetus on Thursday when the Cassation Court controversially acquitted the neoconservative Peronist for gunrunning to Croatia and Ecuador in 1991 and 1995, despite previous convictions, on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired.
Carrió’s clash with Garavano is not new but part of a running battle, especially over the minister’s handling of the investigation of the 1994 terrorist bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre.
The maverick deputy accused Garavano of shielding ex-prosecutors Eamon Mullen and José Barbaccio from the cover-up trial mounted by the Macri administration, alleging that the minister has a “serious brain problem.”