Head of the Partido Justicialista (PJ) caucus in the Upper House, Miguel Ángel Pichetto, confirmed yesterday that neither he nor the senators who vote along party lines will vote in favor of stripping former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of her parliamentary immunity, to comply with an order issued by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio in the context of the recently surfaced scandal known as “the notebooks of corruption.”
“The criminal process can be carried out until the sentence without any impediment from the immunity,” reads a statement released by the PJ caucus yesterday. “In the Senate, there is no stripping of immunity until there is a sentence,” it adds.
Bonadio requested the Senate yesterday to strip the former President of her immunity to order police search her office and residences. A few hours later, Cambiemos Senator Eduardo Costa introduced a bill aimed at doing so, based on the former President’s “moral inability.”
However, Pichetto’s statement squashes any hopes from Cambiemos or Judge Bonadio. The parliamentary immunity prevents the former President from being sentenced to prison, but also from, among other things, have her house or office raided if a judge were to order so.
Bonadio has called the former President to testify on August 13th in relation to the notebooks scandal that exploded yesterday and sent shockwaves throughout Argentina.
She can decline to attend or, as she usually does, show up but refuse to answer questions and instead deliver a written statement detailing her point of view on the accusations. Based on this, and the evidence already available, Bonadio will decide whether to press charges against her.
Although the event has not yet taken place, Bonadio has already anticipated his willingness to press charges against Kirchner. In the ruling in which he charged the accused who have already appeared before him, he said they are potential members of an illicit association “whose goal was organizing a money-embezzling scheme and using part of those funds to commit other crimes,” and “was led by Néstor Carlos Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.”
Even before Pichetto’s confirmation, the chances of it happening were slim. Bonadio had already made the same request in December during the investigation of the AMIA cover-up case, in which she stands accused of covering up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing in exchange for trade deals.
In that case, only a minority of senators in the Upper House – the Cambiemos caucus – agreed to comply with the order because the reigning ideology of the Partido Justicialista, whose senators could help tip the scale against her, indicates that lawmakers should not be stripped from their immunity until being effectively sentenced in court. This stance has allowed former President Carlos Menem to nest in the Senate for 13 years now, despite having been found guilty of, among other crimes, selling arms to Croatia and Ecuador during his time in office.
The former President is expected to publicly address the issue for the first time today, as she is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a sort of “training camp” for 400 leaders of the mechanics union (Smata) in the Buenos Aires Provincial district of Cañuelas.
Although Kirchner has not yet publicly addressed the subject, different news reports indicated that she considers it to be just another episode in the political persecution plan orchestrated by her political enemies, and executed by judges loyal to them – in particular, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio.