December 7, 2013
Kirchnerism is very difficult to explain
Both Kirchner presidencies have been criticized with considerable accuracy for a populist and electioneering approach to politics but at times they have laid claim to a statesman-like vision — notably a courageous insistence on resuming judgement of the atrocities of the 1976-83 military dictatorship after the good work of the CONADEP commission on the missing and the 1985 junta trial had been effectively negated by democratic governments in the 1986-90 period. After this shining reaffirmation of justice in 2004-5 (with an apology for state terrorism followed by nudging a newly independent Supreme Court into re-opening human rights trials by quashing the 1986-7 amnesty legislation), how very sad to see the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration proving its harshest critics right by stooping to illegality to fight crime in a frantic bid to pander to opinion polls. For some years the quality of officials has been on a downhill slide — almost evolution in reverse with the “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” (the words of a previous United States ambassador) of the early years being followed now by nominees ranging from extreme incompetence to corruption — but the current crop of vigilante voices coming to the fore with this latest “law and order” crusade plunges new depths.
If many (including CFK) criticize the justice system over “criminals entering by one door and leaving by another,” re-opening the door to rogue policemen removed by previous purges has no better results. Deploying the torture and trigger-happy techniques of corrupt policemen obviously ends up violating human rights (to which the low-income youth of Greater Buenos Aires is just as entitled as anybody else) — less obviously it only leads to a general escalation of violence which defeats the purpose of making society safer. Such methods have been a proven failure in the past, leading to more enlightened approaches (e.g. León Arslanián at provincial level or Nilda Garré at national) being tried but never given enough time by an impatient government.
CFK might argue that she has also encouraged criticisms of the new “law and order” approach which is perhaps more driven by Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli but neither ambiguity nor a negligent complicity exonerate her — leaders are supposed to lead their people towards long-term visionary goals, not be led themselves by the opinion polls. A government which has proved surprisingly durable given its generally day-by-day perspective should not let itself be stampeded when it has shown a capacity for statesmanship.