Former Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni. (Photo via FM Libre)

Former Supreme Court Justice Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni situated himself at the center of the political controversy of the weekend, after declaring in a radio interview that he “would want the government to leave [office] as soon as possible.”

His statements prompted immediate condemnation from government officials, who accused him of being anti-democratic and promoting their ousting. And both Justice Minister Germán Garavano and Buenos Aires City’s Lawyer Bar demanded he resign from his seat at the OAS’ Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), which he holds since early 2016.

“It won’t depend on a political factor, nor on what any political party might say. I would want them to leave as soon as possible, so they do as little harm as they can, but that is a personal desire. The decisive factor will be the crisis of this nonviable economic plan. They won’t leave as a result of something else,” Zaffaroni said.

The former Justice went on to make a call for people to “resist.”

“To non-violent resistance, I mean. To not give up. It is a matter of time. Everything has an end. This will too, in the same way we went through the dictatorship, [former President Carlos] Menem’s years, [former infamous Economy Minister Domingo] Cavallo. He who believes is able to stay in power forever is insane. That doesn’t happen. This will end, because the economic plan they have is nonviable,” he added.

It didn’t take long for the backlash to come. Leader of the Cambiemos caucus in the Lower House, Mario Negri, said “there is no distance between [Zaffaroni’s] wishes about the government leaving and an invitation to oust it, destabilize it.”

Following the same line of thought, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said in a TV interview that Zaffaroni’s words promote the forceful ousting of the government. “To wish for a government to leave office earlier, and it coming from someone who was part of the Supreme Court, that’s somethign truly coup-mongering,” said Bullrich. “It is an attempt to interrupt the normal democratic life that elections provide,” she added.

Buenos Aires City’s Lawyer Bar released a statement demanding Zaffaroni leave his post at the IACHR, encouraging the court to remove him should he not do it, “or risk being sullied by the indignity of one of its members.”

“[The statements] have crossed the line of what constitutes freedom of speech, and instead are messages that go against democracy and republican principles and values,” reads a passage of the release, which then emphasizes they become more serious because they come from “someone who is in charge of ruling over states’ human rights violations in the Americas.”

Justice Minister Germán Garavano echoed these thoughts in a statement provided to Clarín. “The statement is extremely unfortunate, anti-democratic and he should resign,” Garavano said.

Zaffaroni was a Supreme Court Justice between 2003 and 2014, when he left his post due to being close to turning 75, the age limit established by the Constitution – which, is fair to highlight, not all justices abide by: in 2017, a judge upheld an injunction filed by Justice Elena Highton de Nolasco and allowed her to stay in her post indefinitely.