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Argentina’s Elected Autocracy

Faced with growing public opposition, the Kirchner government is stepping up its attacks on democracy.

by
Jaime Daremblum

Bio

May 30, 2013 - 12:00 am
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Back in September, Argentines held massive nationwide rallies to protest the autocratic abuses, economic failures, and rampant corruption of President Cristina Kirchner. Two months later, they held even bigger demonstrations. And on April 18, they held their largest protests yet, with roughly two million people marching in cities and towns across the country, including more than one million in Buenos Aires alone.

“I took to the street because we live in a democracy that runs the risk of transforming into authoritarianism,” one Argentine university student told Reuters. “This government doesn’t want to listen. Every day, we become more like hostages, and somehow we have to make this known.”

The immediate trigger for the April 18 protests was a Kirchner proposal to abolish judicial independence, but the demonstrators also expressed concerns about everything from sky-high inflation to violent crime to government attacks on press freedom. In the weeks following their protests, they received good news and bad news. The good news was that Argentina’s court system pushed back against Kirchner’s war on free expression. The bad news was that government-allied lawmakers enacted her judicial “reforms,” which means that the ruling party will now have majority control over the legal council that appoints and (if necessary) removes federal judges. It’s not hard to see what this will mean in practice: Argentina’s executive branch will be able to stack the federal courts with friendly magistrates, and it will also be able to impeach any judge who doesn’t toe the party line.

Not surprisingly, many outside groups and institutions have condemned Kirchner’s judicial overhaul as an assault on democracy. Both José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch and United Nations special rapporteur Gabriela Knaul have said that it “seriously compromises” the independence of Argentina’s judiciary, and Transparency International has warned that it could “threaten the country’s rule of law by concentrating too much power in the executive branch.” Argentina’s National Chamber of Civil Appeals has said that it “violates the principle of judicial independence,” and the Argentine Business Association has called it “a serious threat to constitutional guarantees.” In Buenos Aires, Mayor Mauricio Macri and members of the city legislature have taken actions to affirm their support for freedom of expression.

Kirchner’s judicial power grab comes at a moment when many Argentine jurists are resisting her efforts to create a Venezuelan-style autocracy. For example, just a few weeks before Argentina’s Senate passed the judicial reforms, an appeals court ruled that portions of her 2009 “anti-monopoly” media law are unconstitutional. This is the law that Kirchner has used to demand the breakup of Grupo Clarín, Argentina’s largest media conglomerate, which publishes the country’s leading newspaper, Clarín. The Clarín empire represents Kirchner’s biggest journalistic opponent — that’s why she has fought so hard to dismantle it. After the recent appellate ruling, the case will go to Argentina’s Supreme Court.

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Top Rated Comments   
My goodness, that certainly sounds like a similar situation here in the states. If obama had a sister, would she look like Cristina Kirchner?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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Many Argentines can read the tea leaves.

A friend of mine in Mendoza hasn't had his money in an Argentine bank in ~ 15 years.

This past week I assisted him with improving the English conjugation in his Resume when applying for a U.S. engineering job. He wants to get his wife and young baby boy the heck out of there.

He's worked overseas, North America and saw firsthand where his country SHOULD BE and where it's been and sadly headed again.

My heart goes out to him and millions of others in his/ their plight.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Looks like her deflection on re-invading the Falklands or as the wise one called them in an utterly failed yet deliberate insult to us Brits, The Maldives.

He of course meant the Argy term, The Malvinas. What an idiot!

And Hillary's cosying up to Kirchner hasn't gone unnoticed back here either.

Odd, eh?

Given a choice between a truly loyal ally and a repressive dictatorship they pick which one?
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
It would be nice if our courts stood up for democracy and rule of law.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
It will be good for America if she gets her way, because then we'll get lots of politically _conservative_ hispanic immigrants.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe you're right.

Much of South America possesses far more educated, law abiding, self-sustaining Conservatives when compared to Latin America and Mexico numbers-wise, respectively.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Argentina is so frustrating: a nation that should be among the most prosperous on the planet instead keeps shooting its feet off.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The star crossed Argentinians have stumbled from crisis to crisis since the time of Juan Peron. Peron is dead and long gone but Peronism lives on and is the source of all that is wrong with Argentina. My sense is that Kirchner and the other recent presidents of Argentina have not sought to become dictators as much as they have sought the powers they believed necessary to make a leftist theory of governing work in practice. But it ends in the same place.

There is a real message in the Argentina story for any democracy that wants to take the socialist plunge; it will inevitably lead to the government grabbing enormous powers just to try to make it work and in the end it's a futile effort.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, with the fleeing Italians and Germans making roots in Argentina, the nonsensical romanticism of the failed paradigm of Socialism has really taken hold in Argentina.

I've a mate in Mendoza whom speaks Italian as well as I do. And my father's form the old country whereas Italian is the 1st language I'd learned until my Mom forced my Dad to begin speaking English to me when attending primary school!

The same Argentine friend didn't take Italian as a foreign language. The Italian language is very similar to the Spanish language and is often required education in Argentina's public schools.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
This hits too close to home for me. This situation reminds me of what's going on here. I wouldn't put it past the crew in power to try the very same thing come 2016. History is a funny thing...It usually repeats itself and that's not always a good thing.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well at least in Argentina the media is not the lap dog of the aspiring dictator, can't say the same for the US.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kirchner is benefiting from a weak and divided opposition, which is representative of a weak public. Argentina has long proven Churchill wrong. Democracy is the worst form of government including all the others.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good to have some commentary on South America. The travails of Latin American countries like Argentina or Venezuela often pass unnoticed in ye olde Anglosphere. I know a Venezuelan bloke at church who keep me up with the ongoing disaster there, but I see little about it English.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
while I'm not arguing the general point, I can't see a reason to complain about putting the body that hires and fires judges in the hands of elected officials. I wish we had that system in Israel. Insread, until recently, the Supreme Court was self-perpetuating, a toy of the Left.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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