The Criminal Code Saga rolls on. After months of promotion and a lion’s share of controversy, the new Criminal Procedural Code reform bill (CCP) has finally passed through the Senate and is on its way to the Lower House, 42 amendments later. In the Senate it warped under opposition from both the Left and Right and various clauses were changed.
Most adjustments proposed for the bill were voted through as the government showed real eagerness to just get the damn thing through, and so take one step closer to securing a big sign-off legacy for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner before next year’s looming elections. She can’t run for a third term and so is doing her level best before time runs out to claim her place among the sparsely populated pantheon Argentine presidents with noteworthy legacies; hoping to sit alongside her late husband Nestor, who is surely among that crowd.
For the most part the bill has been stripped of some of its more useless or downright silly clauses, most notably the one that said cases would be judged on the level of “social upheaval” they generated: the motochorro’s influence on the legislation Cristina’s government hope will last for generations has been exorcised.
So far so good. Most of the bill has a progressive, modernizing-edge- perhaps why many opposition senators voted against it. This is underlined by the signature proposal to switch from an old-fashioned “inquisitorial” system to a more impartial “adversary” one. However, the point of most controversy remains. Article 35, which calls for the deportation of foreigners who commit a crime is still largely intact, a tagged-on alteration the only real change. It will now only apply to more serious crimes i.e. those that would earn you three years behind bars at least.
Despite widespread condemnation from Human Rights groups, the fact that the ruling Victory Front (FPV) have decided to stick with this particular clause shows their commitment to the principle of singling out non-Argentines for special punitive treatment.
It may be popular with some who are concerned about the high crime rate in Argentina, but we know that there is no empirical reason to suggest a link between this and immigration, despite what the FPV and much of the print media imply. To infer as much is not only incorrect, for the Government it’s also out of step with the cooperative, international approach it has pursued in the region. When fellow Center-Left President Dilma Rousseff was re-elected in Brazil recently, Cristina was the first to stress the Government’s commitment to close-knit internationalism:
“This is one more step towards the greater homeland”.
While they all have their own distinct way of doing things, it’s uniformly been the Center-Left Presidencies of the Kirchners, Rouseffs and Chavezs etc. that have helped strengthen regional ties of late and bring some form of Latin American integration forward as these words allude to.
As such it’s a muddled, conflicting message to say that exclusively foreign criminals will be expelled from Argentina and barred re-entry for 15 years, or that some non-Argentines are akin to an “infecting virus”, and all the while seek greater integration in a unified Patria Grande. Especially as it’s clear the Government’s focus on foreign criminals is weighted towards those from other Latin America nations. Berni helped demonstrate as much when he gave a press conference from the scene of a botched car-jacking attempted by Colombians wielding guns, telling us all how it apparently proves the validity of his message.
By gambling on making this controversial part of the bill a headline-grabbing focus of government spin and publicizing efforts, it looks like the FPV are wedded to it no matter what at this point. A meek attempt was made to engage with expert humanitarian and legal groups like the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) over the reform that have argued it may breach human rights, be unconstitutional and give a notorious police force undue powers. They were invited formally by the FPV to join the debate and contribute, only now it’s passed through the Senate there can be no more modifications.
42 changes before even reaching Congress hints at the fallible nature of the reform. If any part of the bill is up for changing or- like the motochorro “social upheaval” clause -axing, then why not Article 35? Statistically, there is no reason we should believe it will reduce crime drastically like it’s advocates say. It should be cause for alarm when a Center-Left government that has found itself harried by persistent, unrelenting attacks from the right wing press on many policies decides to down arms and unite with those very same vested interests for the sake of pushing something they obviously, finally, are willing to back it up on. An unholy alliance looks set to see this discriminatory part of the bill home and enshrined into law if Congress obliges.