October 25, 2014
More haste, less speed
If last week concluded with adverse court rulings against two of the government’s figures — Vice-President Amado Boudou and Army Chief-of-Staff César Milani in the cases of the Ciccone mint sale and a 1976 conscript disappearance respectively — one logical reaction might be to define these issues once and for all instead of trying to march forward with these pebbles forever in the shoe (and indeed such a prominent ruling party politician as Lower House Speaker Julián Domínguez seems to have been hinting in that direction). Since the government has been making some drastic U-turns and startling admissions in the area of economic policy in recent months, this logic might run, why not flush out all the bad news this year instead of leaving it as a hostage to fortune for the electoral year of 2015?
Nevertheless, on closer examination there are substantial differences between these two cases. Replacing Milani at the Army helm seems by far the more reversible of the two situations — indeed it is still hard to understand how the problem ever arose in the first place because four decades after the beginning of state terrorism it should have been a mission impossible to find any serving officer dating back to those times even if the government was willing to run that huge risk and yet somehow the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration managed to come up with Milani. In hindsight the choice of Boudou as the 2011 running-mate might seem an equally avoidable error but the consequences of correcting it are far more momentous. The abrupt exit of the Alliance vice-president Carlos “Chacho” Álvarez in 2000 should not be underestimated as a factor leading to the political and socio-economic crisis of 2001-2. It would thus seem that the body of legal proof against Boudou would need to be far more overwhelming in order to justify such a hazardous and institutionally disruptive move as his separation from the vice-presidency but some media (with various opposition parties following suit) have long been jumping the gun by calling for his ouster at this very early stage in proceedings (increasingly close to clearing the way for a summons to testify but not even there yet).
When Milani was first accused of involvement in crimes against humanity, he was innocent until proven guilty like any citizen but the pressures being applied to the legal system on his behalf are working against the benefit of the doubt — both in his case and for the credibility of government claims to enshrine human rights as its top priority.