March 30, 2023

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Argentina: President Fernandez defends his record, attacks justice

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, in his last public policy speech, launched a scathing attack on Wednesday against a justice system that lacks the “necessary freedom” and proposed a “utopia of equality” as a plan for the country, seven months before general elections.

“40 years ago, our utopia was democracy”, Mr. Fernandez declared. “I propose to you that our utopia today is equality,” he added.

“We created democracy, we live free, we achieve equality!” The Peronist (centre-left) presidency begins nine months into its mandate, which will be followed by general elections in October-November.

He defended his three-year presidency in a hostile environment marked by Covid, the impact of the war in Ukraine, the Argentine debt, a backdrop of chronic inflation (94.5% in 2022), “a structural problem dating back decades”. Although Argentina is “one of the countries with the highest growth in two years” (10.3% in 2021, 5.4% in 2022).

However, the 63-year-old president has not openly indicated a candidacy, which he has not ruled out on several occasions in recent months, making the October elections particularly uncertain, with four months of primaries between the government camp and the right-wing and center-right opposition.

But Mr. Fern├índez, sometimes under the shouts of the opposition, has launched an all-out attack on Argentina’s judicial system, which he has tried in vain to reform. The House of Representatives, where the ruling coalition does not have a majority, never examined the plan.

“The Judiciary no longer enjoys the public’s trust, it does not function effectively and does not demonstrate the necessary independence from procedural (economic) and political powers,” he alleged.

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He was particularly critical of Vice President Christina Kirchner’s “absurd” condemnation of her for fraud in December, which was “aimed at her political disqualification”. and denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling on the distribution of tax revenues between Buenos Aires (governed by the right) and the provinces.

In January, Mr. Fern├índez also launched a parliamentary procedure aimed at impeaching the Supreme Court for “bad execution of its functions”, a strong symbolic step but unlikely to succeed in practice. In Argentina the government and the opposition often accuse each other of instrumentalizing or influencing justice.