How Peronism maneuvers to try to equip the Judiciary in Argentina

Peronism has a real obsession with controlling the judiciary in Argentina, and the most recent attempt in that direction made headlines in the local press this month.

In nominating four senators for the Judiciary Council, the vice-president of the country and president of the Senate, Cristina Kirchner, carried out a political maneuver to dismember the ruling bloc, so that it would remain with three of the four seats in the house on the collegiate. In this way, the ruling Martín Doñate would take the seat of the second minority.

Even with the Supreme Court of Argentina understanding that such a vacancy should go to the oppositionist Luis Juez , the Peronist bloc took the nomination forward and the discussion continues in court.

Interestingly, this Monday (28), a judge who had held a position in the Executive during the presidency of Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015) barred the nomination of an opposition deputy to the council citing the position of the Supreme Court on Doñate as an argument.

Cristina had already acted against the balance of the Judicial Council, which appoints and can dismiss judges, when she was a senator: she promoted in 2006 a reform that reduced the number of members from the collegiate from 20 to 13, with the aim of unbalancing the composition of the group and increasing the proportion of political nominees icos. This change was challenged in court and at the end of 2021 the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

Other attempts to undermining the independence of the judiciary have occurred in recent years. Two months ago, Argentina’s Senate approved an increase in the number of Supreme Court justices from five to 13, so that Peronism could equip itself the court with sponsors – repeating a Chavista formula. The issue must now be voted on by the Chamber of Deputies.

In addition, in 2015 the Senate passed a judicial reform that would create dozens of new federal courts, with the main objective of diluting the power of judges based on Avenida Comodoro Py, in Buenos Aires, responsible for cases of corruption. Only in the capital, would they be 23 new federal courts. However, the project did not advance in the Chamber.

In March of this year, President Alberto Fernández returned to defend the need for this reform. “Unfortunately, the Judiciary reform project that I submitted in 2020 and which was approved by the Senate has already lost its parliamentary status. What is happening to the Judiciary in Argentina is serious”, he criticized. “That reform that I promoted was met with resistance from the opposition, which sought to benefit some officials from the previous government who must be held accountable.”

While Peronism alleges judicial persecution, political analysts point out that the objective is to rid Cristina Kirchner of the corruption processes of which she is the target.

In August, the Federal Public Ministry of Argentina requested a sentence of 12 years in prison and life disqualification from public office for the vice-president, in the context of a trial for alleged irregularities in the concession of works public when he was president. The verdict will be announced next Tuesday (6).

Last year, three other lawsuits against Kirchner were filed, but the Public Ministry appealed and they are under analysis in the superior instances.

“Actually, this agenda is essentially Cristina Kirchner’s, I wouldn’t even say that it is an agenda of Alberto Fernández. The president is not very interested, throughout his government he defended the need for judicial reform, but his actions were never very incisive in that sense. It is Cristina Kirchner who has an obsession with the subject, to basically get away with it and also her family members, her children”, said lawyer and professor at the University of Buenos Aires Flavio Gonzalez.

“And in addition to trying to control these courts, now, for example, they have tried to create a federal appeals chamber in a community of 6,000 inhabitants in the province of Santa Cruz, near El Calafate, with the aim that this chamber, that would have Kirchnerist judges, would help to have impunity for Cristina Kirchner in some processes”, added the professor.

Historical Obsession

Gonzalez pointed out, however, that Peronism’s fixed idea of ​​controlling the Judiciary did not begin with Kirchnerism. “At the time of Carlos Menem , the Minister of the Interior, Carlos Corach, told Minister [da Economia, Domingo] Cavallo that he controlled a certain number of judges in the Federal Court of Comodoro Py. He had written the names of all these judges on a napkin, so the episode became known as Judges of the Napkin”, he recalled.

Also in the Menem period, the Supreme Court was expanded from five to nine justices. Then, during the government of Néstor Kirchner (2003-2015), the court returned to the original number. “But now, with the lawsuits facing Cristina Kirchner and her family, they are looking to expand the Supreme Court again to control her”, pointed out Gonzalez.

He pointed out, however, that Argentina has shown institutional maturity to curb these attempts. “Kirchnerism always wanted to control justice and never succeeded, in a way because the judges were not receptive to these attempts, they stood firm against them, and they also know that society, specifically the middle class, which is more concerned with these issues related to institutional quality and the independence of the Judiciary, they know that it sustains them”, emphasized the professor.

“There is a whole apparatus of means of communication who also ask for the independence of the Judiciary to be maintained, so, I believe, this will be prevented, as everything has been prevented because [os peronistas] they do not have a majority [no Legislativo argentino] to be able to advance”, he justified.

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