September 2, 2014
According to which side of the coin
Judge Ariel Lijo based the indictment of Vice-President Amado Boudou on a number of striking coincidences which would link him to bribery and the attempt to take over the company that prints the country’s money. According to Lijo, the vice-president failed to explain his participation in murky negotiations to “save” Ciccone Calcográfica and that was enough to rule the indictment, as this newspaper reported in detail, which sounds like a hypothesis yet to be proved. Even though President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has kept a silent distance from the scandal, while some key officials are allegedly at odds with Boudou, other Kirchnerite leaders prefered to focus on the unusual hour of Lijo’s decision (which was officially known last Friday at 10.50pm). In that regard, whether or not Lijo has shown a very particular timing and whether or not he has often chosen opposition media to leak details of the case is not the central point at all. Even Boudou seemed to have understood what is important in this case when he decided to answer the real questions on television some days before the indictment.
This historic case of the first Argentine vice-president to be indicted for corruption (surely not the first to be vulnerable to such charges) calls for an institutional reaction from the government. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich has a point when he tackles the clamour for Boudou’s resignation from office, recalling that the conservative City Mayor Mauricio Macri did not step down when indicted for allegedly spying on a brother-in-law and political opponents either. In fact, the government is under no obligation to heed opposition recommendations which have an obvious political interest but what it should feel obliged to do is to follow its own criteria, which point in the direction of separation from public office until the case is clarified — the outcome of scandals affecting former Economy minister Felisa Miceli and former Army chief-of-staff Roberto Bendini, among others. Yet since Boudou has been elected by the citizenry as the second authority in the government and head of the Senate, his situation may differ from other officials — thus it sounds reasonable to await the decision of an appeals court before as drastic a step as resignation.
The Boudou case also leaves a message for the media and political opposition. Does not the fact that the politically delicate legal prosecution of Boudou going ahead at this highly inconvenient moment (with a bond payment deadline expiring yesterday) forcefully demonstrate that Argentina remains a country where the rule of law prevails? The lesson is that categorical statements on impartial justice look ridiculous when they cluster according to which side the coin in the air falls.