An interesting back and forth between Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and La Nación star columnist Carlos Pagni this week continued to help set the stage for what will be President Alberto Fernández’s upcoming reform of the Argentine Judiciary. Interestingly, days before, and almost below the radar, Perfil’s Gustavo González had revealed even juicier details of the encroachment being planned by sectors of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition against Mauricio Macri, as their sworn vengeance for what diehard Kirchneristas consider the application of “lawfare” against the ex-president and her associates during the previous presidency. All of this, of course, occurs in a context in which Economy Minister Martín Guzmán is looking to restructure Argentina’s large debt pile with the explicit support of US President Donald Trump, forcing officials at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Wall Street investors to question which of the Fernándezes is really in charge.
In last week’s edition of Perfil, González published a piece titled “Macristófeles,” where he narrated the legal onslaught being strategised by certain members of the governing coalition. The former president and current head of the FIFA Foundation will be accused of leading a “judicial table” that met every Saturday at the Presidential Residence in Olivos, where he and Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña personally directed pressures against federal judges in order to incarcerate Fernández de Kirchner and her former officials. Macri, they will allege, abused his control of the AFI spy agency, then headed by his friend Gustavo Arribas, and inorganic officers — people like the fake spy Marcelo D’Alessio — who worked in tandem with official entities including the AFIP tax agency and UIF anti-money laundering unit to dig up dirt on Kirchnerites.
As González revealed, the “judicial table” did in fact exist. It included Peña, Justice Minister Germán Garavano, Legal Secretary Pablo Clusellas, and chief advisor José Torello. They met Tuesday mornings at the Casa Rosada, where later they spoke off-the-record with accredited journalists, where they supposedly discussed issues related to the Judiciary that would later make their way into the public sphere.
“They wouldn’t say it,” González noted, “but one could presume they also discussed major corruption cases including the notebooks case,” adding, “they wouldn’t deny that people outside that table, such as Daniel Angelici, weren’t charged with ‘contact duties’ with the magistrates.” Macri wouldn’t participate, and Peña would do so begrudgingly, he said, as both were critical of the electoral potential of an imprisoned Cristina, following the lead of Ecuadorean political advisor Jaime Durán Barba.
Fernández de Kirchner, her family, and several close advisors have been accused, indicted, and sent to public trial on a variety of corruption cases, many which were overseen and led by the late Claudio Bonadio. Some, like businessmen Lázaro Báez and Cristobal López, and former federal planning and public works officials Julio De Vido, José López, and Ricardo Jaime, were remanded in custody.
The voracity with which the federal judges working out of the Comodoro Py courthouse pursued cases of Kirchnerite corruption was impressive, certainly. But it by no means makes these people innocent. Yet, it was institutionally questionable and could even lead to the Supreme Court throwing out several of these cases on technicalities.
In his weekly TV show, Pagni suggested that former Transport secretary Ricardo Jaime’s pre-trial arrest warrant was a response to a cover story being put together by La Nación calling out Comodoro Py as “responsible for Kirchnerite impunity.”
“Several magistrates knew they had to come up with something to counter that frontpage piece, and so they arrested Jaime,” said Pagni. Cristina went up in flames, taking to Twitter immediately to suggest Pagni had just admitted that La Nación had engaged in lawfare, helping to persecute her former officials, adding that it was intended to “cover up” the ramifications of Macri’s involvement in the “Panama Papers” scandal.
“Now that things are becoming clearer and the mechanisms used to persecute the opposition while covering up macrista corruption, it is easier to understand the need to put our Judiciary back on the path the Republic imposes on it,” she tweeted.
Pagni counterpunched later in the week, indicating that “lawfare” is an empty concept in that it is only valid in defence of Kirchnerites accused of corruption. As I’ve written in this column several times, the Judiciary was absolutely subservient to Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner during their presidencies, choosing to ignore or directly rule them and their officials not guilty in several major cases without even investigating.
As Noticias and Perfil raised a lone voice in revealing the existence of Lázaro Báez, the use of dirty money from Venezuela to finance political campaigns, and several other corruption scandals, the Kirchners and their closest associates became multi-millionaires. Judges like Norberto Oyarbide and Bonadio were part of a system that granted impunity, while the SIDE spy agency — with Jaime Stiuso virtually in charge — spied on political opponents.
As González pointed out in his column, some within President Fernández’s government are already putting together the legal arguments to go after Macri and his officials. A major case pertaining to the Macri family’s ownership of postal service Correo Argentina and its ongoing dispute with the government could place Macri and his three older children in serious trouble, while former Anti-Corruption Office chief Laura Alonso is being investigated regarding the supposed political inclinations of her investigations. Just yesterday, former vice-president Gabriela Michetti was accused of defrauding public administration for some 180 million pesos paid for renovations at the Senate. The Central Bank is investigating what exactly occurred to the hundreds of billions of dollars in debt taken by the Macri administration. The list goes on. And the list goes on.
It is imperative that corruption accusations are investigated thoroughly, both under the Kirchner and Macri administrations. Grave accusations are thrown around loosely in Argentina, yet there are few instances in which they have actually gone to trial. President Fernández has already indicated he stepped aside during his days as Cabinet chief to the Kirchners when he saw impropriety, and he has already said he believes the courts were used to persecute the opposition under Macri.
With a judicial reform under way, it’s difficult to imagine that these
things will finally make their way through the system and find a fair
trial. Until we can sort that out, it won’t matter how good a negotiation
Minister Guzmán brings back from Washington and New York.