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ARGENTINA | 31-08-2023 13:46

Javier Milei draws up plans to ‘free’ Argentina’s Judiciary

Libertarian presidential hopeful believes that Argentina’s “political caste” has “taken the Judiciary hostage.” Claiming that he wants to remove political pressures and fill judicial vacancies, Javier Milei could make Guillermo Montenegro, a candidate for national deputy and a figure close to Victoria Villarruel, his judicial operator, should he reach the Casa Rosada.

Javier Milei is not as concerned about Argentina’s Judiciary as he is about the economy, his main preoccupation, but that does not mean that he isn’t worried. The La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate has a roadmap for what to do with the Judiciary and a name for who he wants to monitor the changes he intends to make. 

In line with his public statements, the 52-year-old economist believes that Argentina’s "political caste" has taken the Judiciary hostage. Should he win the election and enter the Casa Rosada on December 10, he wants to free it of political pressure, which is why he does not foresee any kind of conflict with the Comodoro Py federal courthouse in the short term. He will, however, bet his chips on filling the current Supreme Court vacancy with a justice who conforms to the ideas of Juan Bautista Alberdi. He will also clash with Eduardo Casal, the nation’s current attorney-general since the Cambiemos era: Milei wants the post to cease to be in the hands of an interim, as Casal is, and to be led by a “non-partisan” prosecutor.

How the candidate’s camp intends to implement these changes once in power is unknown, since altering the make-up of the nation’s highest court needs the approval of the Senate, precisely two-thirds of its members. Within La Libertad Avanza they do not seem willing to negotiate with the political forces that today have a strong presence in the upper house, but neither do they anticipate appointment by decree. In the case of the attorney-general post, it also requires consensus of two-thirds of the upper house.

At the same time, Milei intends to fill all vacancies in the country's federal courts with magistrates of a clear profile: judges who are far removed from politics, who are attached to the Constitution and who are in line with Alberdi's concepts. He also plans to promote trial by jury and wants to reform the Council of the Magistrature in order to reduce "the political weight" that he considers the body responsible for the hiring and firing of judges.

The modifications will be supervised by Guillermo Montenegro, a La Libertad Avanza candidate for national deputy and one of the trusted allies of Victoria Villarruel, Milei’s running-mate. A lawyer and the head of the law firm Montenegro y Asociados, as well as the secretary general of the Partido Demócrata in Buenos Aires Province, he will also have the task of establishing a link with Comodoro Py.

The national deputy does not usually talk about Argentina’s justice system much in his interviews, although in one of his last appearances he did say that he wants "economic independence for the Judiciary." In fact, he criticised the fact that its financing depends on the Cabinet chief, the area that authorises budget allocations, which from his point of view allows the Executive to generate pressure on the Judiciary. If he becomes head of state, this mechanism will come to an end.

"[Supreme Court Justice Ricardo] Lorenzetti proposed in a bill that the budget should not depend on the Cabinet chief but on Congress. I am more radical: I want total independence, there should be allocations to finance the Judiciary and the Judiciary should have total autonomy," he said in a recent interview.

Milei’s ideas also include eliminating agencies, institutes and decentralised bodies within the Justice & Human Rights Ministry, one of the few portfolios that will survive if he wins the Presidency. “What we are going to do is to remove all political posts and appointments that have been made during the year 2023," says La Libertad Avanza.

The party will also promote the speeding up of all judicial processes through oral proceedings and the transfer of the national justice system to the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. And there is another line that appears on the libertarian’s radar if he wins the next election: to prohibit any political party affiliation or participation among judges.

Juan Pablo Kavanagh

Juan Pablo Kavanagh

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