October 23, 2014
Opposition pushes Boudou to take step back
Vice-President Amado Boudou may have taken centre-stage on Wednesday at the government’s Independence Day rally in Tucumán, but he was once again pushed back into the shadows yesterday amid opposition complaints.
The ruling Victory Front’s (FpV) political decision that Boudou not preside over yesterday’s special session in the Senate allowed for a unanimous vote and a calm session instead of the promised fireworks and controversy.
That calm, however, was only a façade for the political tension developing in the hallways in the run up to the session.
Speculation about whether or not Boudou would attend a special session to vote on a bill granting immunity to foreign central banks was settled only minutes before the Provisional Senate President Gerardo Zamora opened the session. Zamora sat in the VP’s chair even though the vice-president was in Congress yesterday — and in a position to preside over the session.
Boudou reportedly met with the Victory Front bloc before a decision was taken that Zamora would preside the session.
In the days running up to yesterday’s session — atypical because it was held on a Thursday and only addressed one issue — Radical (UCR) party bloc president Gerardo Morales (Jujuy) had vowed to request that Boudou take a leave of absence pending the ongoing legal investigation into his role with the Ciccone print affair. In addition to the activity in Congress, the vice-president’s lawyers yesterday appealed his indictment on charges of bribery and negotiations incompatible with holding public office (see page 4).
Members of the Broad Progressive Front — made up of members of the Socialist Party, Civic Coalition, GEN, and Córdoba Civic Coalition — had also reiterated their stance to not participate in any of the sessions presided by Boudou. They have promised to not miss any votes however.
Although the exact combination of variables leading to the decision for Boudou to not preside the session was unclear, the procedural requirement that the bill required a two-thirds majority and that there was a pressing need to have the bill receive Senate approval will have played a fundamental role. That is without counting the political risk to Boudou and his FpV colleagues in the Senate of a session dominated by sustained diatribes against the vice-president.
Having Zamora at the helm had the desired effect in so far as that the vote on the bill went smoothly — in fact, Boudou was not mentioned at all during the session — but further standoffs can be expected.
As Senate president, Boudou has administrative functions and plays an important role in the legislative process within the Senate, which generally has stronger working relationships between blocs than in the Lower House.
“Today’s session proves that nobody is indispensable. Not any of the senators, not Zamora... nor anyone going down in the chain of command (of the Senate). But this is an uncomfortable position — for all of us,” said Senator Luis Juez after the session had concluded. Juez also explained once again that in his view it was untenable to have Boudou remain president of the Senate and urged him to take a leave of absence.
Yesterday’s session garnered particular scrutiny because it was the first since Boudou’s indictment. Should the status quo be maintained — especially with regards to the vice-president’s legal situation — it is clear that the opposition in the Senate will continue to insist on the issue.
The next session, scheduled for July 30, will feature the bi-monthly visit by Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich.
The former Chaco governor has been tested in the past by opposition senators with their questions, but now the overriding concern remains how the FpV bloc and Boudou himself will handle the question of whether or not he will be present at the session that usually gets more press time than most.@tbrockenshire