The crisis of credibility facing Argentina’s Judiciary explains why the ruling that convicted Cristina Fernández de Kirchner does not represent a definitive truth for an absolute majority of society.
The millions who consider the former president corrupt did not need a ruling to prove it. The millions who believe she is innocent do not need to read the thousands of pages in search of evidence: they agree with their leader that this is a “firing squad” that did not seek the truth but revenge.
Regardless of the real effects that this ruling will have, if it is ratified by all the courts, it will not fulfil the objective of serving as a generalised social condemnation of the vice-president. For some, she was already socially condemned. And for others, she will never be guilty.
This degradation of judicial credibility is the result of years of hard work by politicians of all persuasions and by judges and prosecutors who have taken on the demands and rewards of the powers that be.
When the vice-president complains about the relationship between politics and justice, she knows what she is talking about, because before, during and after her government that relationship existed. Sometimes it was pornographic, like the automatic majority that symbolised the Supreme Court during the Carlos Memen era (made up of personal friends and associates of the then-president). At other times, it was caricatured, as represented by judges such as Francisco Trovato or Norberto Oyarbide.
A well-known survey carried out anonymously among judges and prosecutors by Noticias magazine showed that the vast majority of them thought that the Judiciary was not independent of political power. They knew what they were talking about. Latest research by the renowned regional consultancy firm Latinobarómetro indicates that distrust of the Judiciary is a feature throughout the continent. The average amount of those who trust is barely 25 percent. The majority deeply distrust it. Argentina ranks second to last among 18 countries (the last is Paraguay), with a level of trust that barely reaches 16 percent of those surveyed.
Mistrust refers not only to the improper relationship between politicians and magistrates, but also to suspicions of corruption within the courts and in the form of judges who have become inexplicably rich.
Most of the cases against Kirchnerism that have reached the courts in recent years have been denounced since 2003 by media outlets from Editorial Perfil. The fact that there have been practically no judges, prosecutors, media and politicians who have paid attention to these cases – for years – exemplifies the historical relationship between the Judiciary and the powers that be.
It is true that during those years of high economic growth there was also no shocked society demanding explanations. Corruption only started to become an issue when that growth began to disappear.
But this crisis of credibility for the Judiciary, which makes even the most obvious cases dubious, is the central responsibility of the judges and politicians who made such a state of affairs possible. It is also the responsibility of the leaders and social sectors that tolerated it.