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Argentina: Cristina Kirchner does not like an independent judiciary

By Aquilino Braden

16.11.05 | Under Article 114 of the Argentine Constitution, the selection of federal judges and the investigation of complaints against them is the responsibility of the Judicial Council (“Consejo de la Magistratura”). According to the abovementioned constitutional provision its membership has to be “balanced” between representatives of three groups. That is to say, between public officers “elected by popular vote”; judges; and practising lawyers elected by its own constituency.

The first piece of legislation ever to regulate such Council, which was enacted in 1998, determined (already leaning in favour of politicians) that there should be 19 Members of the Council. Of them, 10 Members now represent the judges and lawyers and 9 Members represent the “politicians”. This is definitely not a reflect of the spirit of the Argentine Constitution, but still it can be argued that -notwithstanding the obvious lack of balance- the “politicians” today do not really “dominate” the Council.

Senator Cristina Kirchner, the powerful wife of the President, is now proposing to reduce and amend the membership of the Council. The proposed reduction is clearly aimed at eliminating from it any presence from representatives of the opposition parties and, in addition, granting “politicians” the majority of the Council.

In a country like Argentina, where the judiciary is suspect by the wide majority of its people of been “functional” to the Government (particularly at the federal judges level) this proposal is not only against what the Constitution establishes, but could -worse- become an instrument through which governmental officers will “manage” the judges in accordance with the view of the ruling party. Extremely dangerous, particularly in a country where the “rule of law” has been absent since the economic and financial crisis of 2001.

Since judges should inspire trust and confidence and exercise their judicial functions with integrity, impartiality and independence, this proposal by Senator Cristina Kirchner, herself a lawyer (but always a mediocre one) is considered to be not only a clear abuse of power, but also one more step in the wrong direction, i.e. in the direction of authoritarianism. Like their mentor, the “bolivarian” Hugo Chávez, the powerful Kirchner couple now wants to increase the control they hold over Argentina. The new aim, as evidenced by the new proposal, is to control the Argentine judiciary. This is a dangerous proposal, to be followed closely by the investment community.

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