November 22, 2017
Friday, May 19, 2017

Degrees of guilt

If our reaction to the previous bombshell from the judicial system (the Supreme Court ruling setting a precedent for reducing the sentences for crimes against humanity) was blanket rejection, analysis of the decision to send Mothers of Plaza de Mayo leader Hebe de Bonafini to trial over the embezzlement from the “Shared Dreams” low-income housing scheme is considerably more complex. This newspaper has always supported human rights — not that this in any way obliges us to justify 200 million pesos going astray from a 750-million-peso housing allocation. But at the same time while this is basically a corruption trial, Bonafini is far from being considered a leader who stole to line her pockets. As she herself pointed out on Monday, she has always lived in the same frugal La Plata home and she has never shown any interest in material gain — her four decades defending human rights have often deviated into fanaticism but never into greed. Yet while the embezzlement clearly came from the Schoklender brothers managing the scheme (perhaps never have trustees been less trustworthy), this technical innocence fails to place Bonafini beyond criticism.

The head of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo might thank President Mauricio Macri for offering her potential political martyrdom but in many ways she only has herself to blame for being on trial. Not for being corrupt but for her authoritarian temperament which prevented her from listening to the advice which she must surely have received that entrusting “Shared Dreams” (with a final total budget of 1.3 billion pesos) to two brothers who had been convicted of parricide at several instances of justice was simply asking for trouble. Perhaps Bonafini’s chronic dogmatism should teach us that human rights is an essential part of a true democracy rather than something above and beyond it.

Yet the guilt in this case should not be limited to distributing the blame between Bonafini and the Schoklender brothers. The political decision to entrust a 10-digit budget so completely beyond their agenda to the Mothers headed by a woman with zero housing expertise and too old even then (83 at the start of the scheme) to supervise it properly was criminally insane but that is not on trial. What is on trial is the misallocation of funds and here the acquittal of former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido and the various provincial governors involved looks extremely suspicious (it might also be asked in passing if De Vido is entirely innocent in the Odebrecht scandal now afflicting AFI intelligence chief Gustavo Arribas). But human rights also includes everybody being innocent until proven guilty — let justice take its course.

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Edition No. 5055 - This publication is a property of NEFIR S.A. -RNPI Nº 5343955 - Issn 1852 - 9224 - Te. 4349-1500 - San Juan 141 , (C1063ACY) CABA - Director Perdiodístico: Ricardo Daloia