Judicial tensions soared as the week began in Argentina, with the nation's highest court in the thick of the action.
The ruling coalition’s backlash to last week’s Supreme Court per saltum, halting the Senate displacement of three judges appointed to their posts by a decree by former president Mauricio Macri, was not long in coming. The week began with the presentation of a bill by Frente de Todos deputy Vanesa Siley seeking the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Rosenkrantz for malfeasance "in accordance with Article 53 of the Constitution.”
Responding on Monday in a long statement sent to media outlets, the head of the Supreme Court dismissed the impeachment drive as a "smear campaign ... motivated by political interests."
"Rosenkrantz is obstructing the full exercise of constitutional rights and guarantees. His political and economic links with corporations and individuals involved in the last military dictatorship are halting the treatment of cases," Siley said in a post on Twitter.
The national lawmaker accused the chief justice of “favouring and often assuring the impunity of those responsible for state terrorism via sentences contrary to the law.”
Siley, a member of the Council of Magistrates, offered the trial of Jujuy businessman Carlos Pedro Blaquier for crimes against humanity as one example of Rosenkrantz shelving such cases (to which the Chief Justice replied that his only link to Blaquier was his wife sitting on the board of that businessman’s charity to assist schoolchildren from low-income households).
The 36-year-old also accused Rosenkrantz of having applied the benefits of the so-called “2x1” rule (i.e. two days off the final sentence for every day spent in pre-trial detention) to Luis Muiña, an ex-policeman convicted for crimes against humanity during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Rosenkrantz, responding in a press statement, asked why he was being singled out when two other justices had also signed that ruling.
The request for Rosenkrantz’s impeachment originated on September 25, four days before the Supreme Court unanimously decided to accede to the per saltum sought by the three judges Leopoldo Bruglia, Pablo Bertuzzi and Germán Castelli trying to stay in their current benches against government claims that they had been irregularly transferred.
As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision the replacement of these three judges (all participating in trials against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) was suspended without any final ruling on the irregularity of their transfers during the Mauricio Macri presidency.
But in order to approve the impeachment, Frente de Todos need a two-thirds majority in the Senate which they currently lack.
Responding to the allegations, Rosenkrantz on Monday dismissed the impeachment drive as a "smear campaign" based on " completely unfounded" accusations and "motivated by political interests."
The Chief Justice also denied allegations that he held 70 overseas accounts as "a false imputation," as well as finding it curious that the accusations against him included not yielding to street protests against his rulings.
Rosenkrantz also sought to head off one of Siley’s criticisms by calling for Thursday a meeting of the Commission to Coordinate and Accelerate Cases of Crimes against Humanity, which groups members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches and which has not met since 2016 – due to delaying tactics from the chief justice, according to the Frente de Todos deputy's version of events.
Recently recovered from coronavirus, former security minister Patricia Bullrich (now chairing Macri’s PRO centre-right party) offered her support for Rosenkrantz, while weighing in against “Cristina Kirchner’s obstinacy.”
Bullrich, now chairing Macri's centre-right PRO party, also defended protest rallies against the government and accusing “Peronism of making feudal provinces because that gives them power in the Senate and we must break that dominion.”
Further street demonstrations against the government are planned for next week.