May 21, 2013
Friction, she twittered II
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s harsh challenge against the judicial branch last weekend as a “superpower ... disrupting democracy” (neither confirmed nor denied since) invokes such key constitutional principles as checks and balances and the separation of powers, fundamental but also highly abstract for many people — let us view this issue in slightly more practical terms, starting with the specific court ruling sparking the latest uproar. The injunction freezing the nationalization of the Rural Society’s Palermo fairgrounds seems to have enraged CFK as a typical example of pedantic obstructionism blocking an elected government from enforcing the popular will. Yet the court logic staying this flash decree presupposes a distinction between state and government which CFK seems to miss — the state cannot contradict itself by unilaterally terming its own action 20 years ago ILLEGAL(i.e. the privatization of Palermo) without establishing that illegality in court. This contradiction not only shows the need for safeguards against arbitrary government but also for efficiency at an everyday level. It is hard not to notice that governance has become more error-prone in the last year (as can only be expected when political loyalty replaces merit as the path of upward mobility) — impartial scrutiny thus becomes vital to protect the government from its own contradictions and errors.
The other clash arising last weekend — between CFK and star actor Ricardo Darín — also shows the need for the law or at least a third opinion. Darín argued that public opinion was owed an explanation of the presidential fortune, to which CFK replied not only by saying that this issue has been thrashed out in court but also implying that Darín was only free of contraband charges thanks to the statute of limitations (to which Darín answered that he had been acquitted as the fraud victim). Perhaps not even the law is enough here — thus buying state land in Calafate cheap to sell dear by building expensive hotels goes a long way towards answering Darín’s question about the Kirchner wealth but while the purpose of state land is not to make presidents rich, there may not be a law against it (thus possibly making Federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide technically correct to dismiss the case, contrary to widespread belief) — but rhetoric decides nothing.
So let us not dismiss the legal system out of hand — Mr. Bumble may have said: “The law is an ass” as a barrier to his absolute power over his impoverished charges but let us not forget that he ended up as a pauper in his own workhouse.