This week was not lacking in the political theater department. After nine a nine-hour-ling debate — which got notably tense at moments — the Cambiemos caucus failed to get the necessary support to remove the Planning Minister during the three Kirchner administrations, Julio De Vido, from the Lower House.
Cambiemos and the caucuses that supported the initiative — Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front (FR) and the Justicialist Caucus led by Diego Bossio (PJ) — gathered 138 votes in favor of the initiative. Since 20 deputies left the Chamber at the time of voting, they ended up being 20 votes away from getting the necessary two-thirds of the votes of the lawmakers present in the session. On the other side of the aisle, the Victory Front (FpV) and its allies — at least for this vote — racked up 95 votes.
The result didn’t come as a surprise. Cambiemos’ representatives in the Lower House had already anticipated that it was highly likely they wouldn’t get the votes, but carried on with the initiative anyway with another purpose: to show people that they were drawing a line between those who want to fight the corruption that took place during the former administrations — which they claim De Vido is the face of — and those who defend it, or at least tolerate it.
Head of the Cambiemos Caucus Mario Negri clearly expressed this during his turn at the mic: “we don’t care if we don’t get the initiative approved today. What we have to do is plant values and protect them.”
“We need to get rid of that feeling that Congress is a safe haven from the citizens’ behavior [and accountability]”
Throughout the nine hours the debate lasted, the lawmakers who answer to the Macri administration took turns to lash out at De Vido and his Kirchnerite counterparts. So, for concision purposes, we will only quote part of the speech given by Cambiemos co-founder Elisa “Lilita” Carrió, who spearheaded the motion and is not fond of diplomatic terms.
“Corruption is part of an attack against the democratic order. When it includes unlawful enrichment, it makes them infamous traitors to the country.” “That the cause for indignity. I know that we probably won’t get
“That’s the cause for indignity. I know that we probably won’t get two-thirds of the votes, but you know what? For me, it’s a miracle to say this here, after all these years. I feel like everything was worth it.” “I accuse and request the removal of Mr. De Vido for
“I accuse and request the removal of Mr. De Vido for infamous treason to the country in accordance with article 36 of the Constitution,” Carrió said.
In contrast, the Kirchnerite caucus accused Cambiemos and its supporting counterparts of promoting the initiative for electoral purposes, considering that the midterm primaries are less than three weeks away.
“We can’t allow a lawmaker who was voted for by the people be removed because it is decided, after a year and a half in office and in the middle of the campaign, that they want to scapegoat him because of his tenure as minister,” Deputy Diana Conti said.
Moreover, other lawmakers who voted along the same lines warned that approving this initiative would set a dangerous precedent since De Vido hasn’t been convicted of any of the crimes he’s been accused of — he’s been accused of committing crimes in 136 different cases and indicted in 5 of them.
They were arguing about the underlying issue: the potential intention to impulse the removal of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, should she win a seat in the Senate in October’s elections. In fact, Cambiemos Senator Eduardo Amadeo had already anticipated the possibility.
Once the Chamber’s electronic board confirmed he would remain as deputy, De Vido sighed with relief, gave two thumbs up and then made a “V” sign with his fingers. While he received his caucus colleagues’ congratulations, Cambiemos’ deputies emptied their side of the House.
However, the issue will not be leaving the political spotlight anytime soon, as their parties will use the events to further strengthen their rhetoric. In fact, they have already started. Buenos Aires City Mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, has already called people to vote for Cambiemos to get more Deputies and thus get enough votes to remove De Vido. Massa continued trying to present himself as a viable third option and said that Cambiemos and the FpV “are the same BS” because they used the session to swap accusations. And FpV deputies assured they prevented Cambiemos from breaking the Constitution. We are in the middle of the campaign, after all.