November 22, 2014
One trial at a time
The government shrugged off its first crisis since the indictment of Vice-President Amado Boudou when it deployed its Lower House Impeachment Committee majority to block any such proceedings against its embattled veep on Thursday although this successful goalkeeping does not change too much. The news should not provoke either surprise or indignation — the Spanish term for impeachment is “political trial” which implies that political clout is also needed apart from the pure justice supposedly being applied in Judge Ariel Lijo’s court. Indeed it could even be argued that Thursday’s outcome was positive in showing that a lame duck government still has a working parliamentary majority — this is good for the country in difficult times as well as the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner presidency. For similar reasons there should be no haste to accelerate the institutional crisis which would likely follow a Boudou exit — this is perhaps the only factor which could justify the government ignoring its own criterion of obliging officials to step aside once indicted (as Tuesday’s editorial maintained, appeals court confirmation should be awaited before insisting on the resignation of an official of this level of institutional importance).
Meanwhile the committee’s decision in no way prevents the opposition from lodging their own private impeachment requests or raising the issue in other ways and nor does it do anything to restore Boudou’s credibility, given the perceived weight of evidence behind his indictment on corruption charges. Here politics works against Boudou while saving him from impeachment — if he is innocent until proven guilty in Lijo’s court, the verdict of public opinion is much harsher (and impossible for ruling party politicians to ignore). Yet if much of the support within his own party is lukewarm, the Boudou issue does not necessarily unite a fragmented opposition — thus the zeal for an impeachment was visibly stronger among the UNEN alliance than the Renewal Front of Sergio Massa whose ANSeS social security administration experience overlaps with Boudou.
Once Boudou was indicted, no other form of trial is appropriate — for that reason the vice-president’s court appearance scheduled for yesterday (and requested prior to his indictment) was correctly suspended. The indictment invalidates both government attempts to reduce the case against Boudou to “media lynching” (as its deputies continue to do) and opposition calls for impeachment — the charges are finally in court where they belong.