Sunday
October 22, 2017
Friday, July 28, 2017

Red card or red faces?

As widely forecast, the Cham

ber of Deputies fell short of the two-thirds majority required to expel Julio De Vido from its ranks this week. Even with only the vote of two-thirds of those present required, the bar was too high for the sum total of the Let’s Change ruling coalition, Sergio Massa’s deputies, the socialists and other allies. Yet the Kirchnerites (including some who have since strayed elsewhere) and the left continue retaining somewhat more than the decisive third needed to block initiatives of this kind. Nevertheless, the Mauricio Macri administration would not necessarily interpret this vote as a failure since this drive came with the collateral aim of installing corruption as a campaign issue (with the high-flown aid of powerful media allies). To that extent it has been successful athough any number of government supporters are expressing doubts as to whether corruption will prove a decisive electoral factor, both because the state of the economy usually sways voters and because broad sectors of society do not see Let’s Change (and much less President Macri himself) as representative of squeaky-clean politics.

Julio de Vido, responsible for numerous sins of commission and omission while in charge of public works as the Federal Planning minister during the 12 years of Kirchnerism, is a hugely dubious candidate for any attempt to defend his honour. We have insisted in these and other pages of this newspaper that there is hard proof showing that state contracts during the “won decade” were transformed into a slush fund, which apart from the personal corruption, had a negative impact on the efficiency of public works. We call for all this to be fairly and promptly tried — and not by judges who are hyperactive now but were exasperatingly slow in the past. Nevertheless, that is not the crux of the matter. Expelling a member who has yet to be convicted (he faces trial on three counts) would be a dangerous precedent which could threaten democracy. Aside from defying the most basic logic — why must De Vido now be expelled and not ex-president Carlos Menem (who has been convicted) from the Senate? Or the new Defence Minister, the Radical Oscar Aguad — with all the suspicions surrounding his trusteeship in Corrientes, although favoured by slow courts —during his time in Congress? Or Macri himself with numerous shady business activities at state expense? De Vido might be an easy target but if the vote total is all that matters, this could become a dangerous and extremely arbitrary precedent for excluding parliamentary minorities. In a country which has known witch-hunts, this case should worry any democratic force.

If the Spanish for impeachment is “political trial,” such procedures driven by electoral urgencies are “political trials” in the worst sense of the word — a dysfunctional justice system is not corrected by transforming Congress into a kangaroo court or a “Big Brother” television reality show voting the expulsion of the least popular. The doubts here lie not with “Duvidoso” (reportedly the ex-minister’s nickname in Brazil) but with what matters most to the Macri government — institutional integrity or electoral opportunism?

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