Stolbizer and Massa relinquished their privileges at a press conference today. (La Gaceta)

Members of the electoral front 1País, led by Sergio Massa and Margarita Stolbizer, will renounce their judicial immunity. The two deputies are the first in Argentine history to do so. They announced the decision in a press conference this afternoon at the headquarters of the Public Bar Association in Buenos Aires.

The Argentine government automatically grants judicial immunity to members of Congress. This policy has notoriously allowed former President and incumbent Senator Menem, for example, to evade prison despite being sentenced to two separate prison terms for weapons smuggling and embezzlement. Today, Massa insisted that politicians break with “the idea that parliament can be a place a refuge for those wanting to escape from the Justice.” The top twenty members of 1País – including current deputies and candidates in the upcoming election – will give up their privileges immediately. “If there is anything that politics needs,” said Stolbizer, “it is to recuperate exemplary virtues.”

1País is a new player in Argentine politics, merging Frente Renovador with Generación para un Encuentro Nacional (GEN). Its leader seeks to occupy a middle ground between kirchneristas and supporters of the current government. Their rhetoric focuses on protecting domestic markets. Their decision to relinquish immunity reflects the group’s stated mission: in Massa’s words, to be an alternative to the choice “between a government for the rich and a government of thieves.” Massa and Stolbizer now call on other electoral fronts to follow their lead.