A week after the announcement of Marcela Losardo’s resignation as Argentina’s justice minister, it has not yet been decided who will replace him.
His replacement has become a challenge for President Alberto Fernández. He is under pressure from the opposition not to choose a name that only Cristina Kirchner likes. There is, on the part of anti-Kirchnerism, the speech that the ex-president wants to control Justice.
The feeling that the executive wants to interfere with the judiciary would hurt its allied base in this year of legislative elections, which will reshuffle Congress for the second half of its term. The vote is scheduled for October 24.
Justice is a sensitive issue for the current government, as Cristina, the current vice-president, responds to seven cases of corruption, money laundering and payment of bribes.
Cristina has an aggressive speech towards justice, as we saw during a hearing held in early March. The ex-agent, while testifying in one of the lawsuits against her, said she was a victim of political persecution and the process was built for electoral purposes by supporters of the ex-president Mauricio Macri.
“We have a serious problem in Argentina, where the courts behave like a society,” she said.
Cristina suffered another defeat on January 21 with the conviction of businessman Lázaro Báez for corruption and money laundering. His conviction could complicate Cristina’s lawsuits linked to him, such as the charge of money laundering at hotels the Kirchner family owns in Patagonia.
Sentenced to 12 years in prison, Báez was the businessman who benefited the most from state contracts when Néstor and Cristina Kirchner held the presidency (2003-2015).
Losardo, a lawyer and professor well known, like Fernández, of the UBA (University of Buenos Aires), had adopted a moderate line on the reform of justice proposed by the executive and which has no date to be voted by bedroom.
The opposition believes that the change in legislation would aim to free Cristina from his prosecution. However, the text does not provide that current cases change jurisdiction.
In her trials, Cristina questioned the bias of the judges. The Supreme Court having ruled in 2018 that the definition of these magistrates was legitimate, there is little chance of changing the course of these cases. Unless changes are made to the Supreme Court, which initially is not part of the reform.
The new legislation is complex. One of its points is to make judges no longer the investigators of cases, and that these be led by prosecutors, in a system similar to that of Brazil.
Another point is to dilute the centralization of processes linked to politicians, today concentrated in the courts of Comodoro Py, in Buenos Aires, considered by the Kirchnerists as partial in favor of supporters of ex-president Mauricio Macri.
“There is no impartiality in Commodore Py. To prosecute the Kirchnerists is to signal their conviction, ”said former Supreme Court judge Eugenio Zaffaroni.
The new law would also create new regional courts to try to speed up the analysis of cases and prevent them from expiring. This point is strongly criticized by the opposition for having demanded the creation of more than 3,000 jobs in the judiciary, in times of economic crisis.
“There is no other intention in this reform than, ultimately, to free former president Cristina Kirchner from her processes. Your program within this government is personal, ”said Opposition Leader Patricia Bullrich.
Legal scholar Daniel Sabsay agrees, saying that “there is no doubt that the reform does not intend to make the judiciary more independent”.
Losardo, in a rare statement on the reform, in an interview with the Financial Times, clarified that “there is not even an article in the new law that guarantees impunity to anyone.”
During the most recent anti-government protests, one of the main war cries was that of “Cristina Ladra”, and the general demand was to prevent her from interfering in the justice system.
According to a survey by the Institute Synopsis, 60% of Argentines believe that judicial reform would give more power to the executive within the judiciary, while only 5% believe it is an urgent change.
Fernández is also walking on eggshells when choosing a name to replace Losardo, and has said he will make the choice unhurried. She will remain in office in the meantime.
According to Real Time Data, popular approval of its leadership for the first time has fallen below 40% to 38%.
At its peak, in April 2020, with pandemic management going well, the president had 74% approval. The drop is linked to the deterioration in macroeconomic performance and the increase in coronavirus cases, even after a quarantine as severe as that applied in the first six months of the pandemic.
For Fernández, the opposition has a precise agenda: to create a division between him and his deputy. In an interview with local media last week, he said: “There are a lot of people who want Cristina and I to fight. And they are tormented by knowing that Cristina and I have a common vision of what goes on in the courts. The difference is that she is facing lawsuits and I am not. But the diagnosis we have on the performance of Justice is the same ”.