December 9, 2013
The bulldozer style
Both the government and LAN airline seem to see their dispute over use of the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery metropolitan airport hangar in terms of black and white but both are playing hardball at the expense of air traffic in general. Even when the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration is pursuing worthy aims (and this particular case may not be the best example), it has the unfortunate habit of plunging straight into headlong and unilateral action without regard for the forms or possible international ramifications. For several years there has been a steady pattern of despising the forms as bourgeois pedantry hampering effective government but respect for due procedure is also a defining feature of democracies between elections and essential for executive decrees being judicially sustained. Quite apart from the far from abstract danger to relations with Chile (given that LAN has been a core part of President Sebastián Piñera’s rise to fame and fortune), there are the considerations that the airline is allied to Brazil’s TAM and that any move favouring a national carrier over others challenges the reciprocity governing aviation worldwide, not just any bilateral relations.
This bulldozer style makes it all too easy for LAN to play the innocent victim of an arbitrary government but they could be guilty of rather more than overacting here — while posing as a victim, they could themselves be victimizing air travellers and hundreds of airport jobs with the blackmail of shutting up shop in Aeroparque if ousted from the hangar (the lack of which did not prevent them from operating smoothly enough there between 2005 and 2008 before signing the contract whose interpretation is now the bone of contention). The prospective loss of these jobs has triggered the threat of a massive aviation union strike for Thursday’s hangar eviction deadline although there is every chance that a court injunction will (once again) freeze the issue before it comes to that crunch.
This court intervention (looming at the time this editorial was written) is yet another adverse consequence of the government’s fatal error in largely restricting the judicial reform package earlier this year to its own agenda of disarming injunctions against the state and controlling judicial appointments instead of broadening the initiative to embrace the urgent need to modernize the legal system as a whole on everybody’s behalf. Another example of the CFK administration’s apparent compulsion to do possibly the right things definitely the wrong way.