July 30, 2014
CELS is not CFK II
Following the stillborn (or at least suspended) promotion of Army Chief-of-Staff Cesar Milani, the big question must surely be why President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner hangs onto him at all. The presidential objections to “media lynching” might be valid in the case of an ordinary citizen who is innocent until proven guilty but the bar must be raised for a military commander in a situation akin to Caesar’s wife. Standing by Milani after the exposure of his “dirty war” record by the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) human rights body is a costlier political option than cutting her losses so why persist? One obvious explanation is a reluctance to admit to error or to yield an inch to the opposition or media criticism. There seems to be no Plan B to Milani, unlike the most recent failure to impose a presidential nomination last year when Comptroller-General Daniel Reposo could be more than adequately replaced in his doomed bid to become Attorney-General by the current incumbent Alejandra Gils Carbó (his equal in political loyalty and far superior in legal qualifications). But until a more convincing explanation is produced, it is also difficult to resist the conclusion that the military intelligence chief is being defended because he knows too much.
This episode also has repercussions beyond the definition of the military helm, not least the stability of the new Defence Minister Agustín Rossi, whose 52 days in office have coincided with the push to place Milani in charge of the Army top brass. One of the most striking features of the Milani saga has been the chinks appearing in the hither to ironclad Victory Front discipline in Congress — a discipline which never questioned either the outrageous agreement with Iran or a judicial reform package which went far more towards colonizing than democratizing or modernizing the judiciary (and whose disarming of litigation against the state was rejected by CELS). Thus such prominent senators as Upper House Majority Leader Miguel Angel Pichetto and Daniel Filmus (locked in a key re-election battle in this capital) were ducking out of the front line of the Milani ratification process even before CELS confirmed the charges against him. Not to mention human rights activists for whom the Milani nomination crossed the line, ruling out the benefit of the doubt for an administration supportive of their cause.
All too often, the denial of an error only deepens it.