November 20, 2014
Playing both ends
Many pundits are concluding that Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli’s unilateral declaration of a “security emergency” last weekend marks a new chapter in the long saga of tension between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her would-be heir-in-waiting but pigeonholing their internal rivalry into tough and soft stances on crime is much too simplistic. Even on that basis the national government had little right to take offence over Scioli’s announcements because if both Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich and Lower House Majority Leader Juliana Di Tullio were insisting last week that security is a provincial responsibility, how can they object if the governor takes them at their word?
But the deeper reason for objecting to this interpretation of a collision course between Scioli and Kirchnerism over this issue is that Kirchnerite presidencies have been contradictory and spasmodic throughout the last decade over crime-fighting and continue to be so. CFK herself appealed for “calm” over “vengeance and hatred” in the face of the recent lynching wave; Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo leader Estela Barnes de Carlotto pointed out that the families of the missing had never contemplated taking justice into their own hands; CELS human rights organization argued that any bottlenecks in bringing criminals to trial were best resolved with a new penal code while highlighting the political and media roots of the outcry; Buenos Aires province Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Mariotto obliquely questioned his superior’s announcements by saying that crime should be fought at its “structural causes” and not through “opportunistic stances.” But how does this all sit with Security Secretary Sergio Berni echoing that tired cliché about judges being more concerned about the rights of criminals than those of the rest of society? Along with various other statements along these lines which the Renewal Front’s Sergio Massa, the leading law-and-order opportunist, would hesitate to utter so bluntly. CFK and Scioli are even personally linked on this front via Berni’s provincial counterpart Alejandro Granados (close to the Kirchner couple from the start of their presidencies in 2003).
The contradictions of this erratic policy nevertheless have their motives beyond the ideological diversity of the Peronist movement. While Kirchnerite populism seeks firm judges to satisfy the public clamour over crime, the seamier side of Kirchnerism craves lame judges to cover up the niches of corruption. Expecting clarity in the reactions of schizophrenia to opportunism seems a mission impossible.