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August 1, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014

Not with CONADEP

Argentines have come to value democracy. It escapes no one that the 30 years of uninterrupted democratic rule is not without its institutional imperfections. Yet there’s at least one flaw to the system that should be intolerable: corruption. Since Carlos Menem, the Peronist who embraced neoconservative policies, took office in 1989 Argentina seems to have been unable to lower its high levels of corruption. The outrage continued during the doomed Radical-Frepaso Alliance administration of 1999-2001, and it certainly got no better in the Kirchnerite decade that started in 2003, judging by the investigations currently going on. The state was also ransacked by the last 1976-1983 military dictatorship like never before.

The solution for dealing with corruption, that also has the private sector as a culprit and in the long run hurts the economy, should be pretty straightforward. The cases must be dealt with in a court of law. There are currently a number of high-profile cases involving top national government officials that show that the court system, while dysfunctional and not without its own corruption scandals, does have the capacity to deal with graft. With concern growing about the alarming levels of embezzlement and malfeasance, it’s tempting for politicians to turn corruption into one more campaign issue. And it appears that is what the spin doctors are telling their candidates to do . That would explain why for some inexplicable reason a number of opposition leaders that should know better are suddenly talking about establishing what they are calling a “CONADEP to deal with corruption.” Argentina’s leaders should not need reminding that CONADEP stands for National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, which was established during the 1983-1989 presidency of Raul Alfonsín. The concept of such a commission is not necessarily suitable for dealing with corruption. Who would sit in this commission if the whole system seems to have its hands stained with graft?

Talking about a new CONADEP with stomach-churning banality for the sake of attracting the attention of television viewers is an affront to the original commission, which was designed as an initial step for the new democracy to come to terms with the disappearance of thousands of people orchestrated by the military regime. The venerable acronym CONADEP, and its legacy and the memory of the disappeared, should not be warped for the sake of a fleeting publicity stunt.

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