As more audios of wiretapped calls emerge, more former Kirchnerite officials find themselves compromised as their attempts to pressure members Judicial Branch members become public. What could be the potential legal consequences of this, if they are found guilty of abusing their authority?
New controversial audios from phone calls between the former Intelligence Agency (AFI) Head, Oscar Parrilli, and other high ranking Kirchnerite officials are leaking by the day. The audios have become famous after former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was recorded using language that would make your grandmother’s monocle fall off when talking to Parrilli about other politicians, but her word choice could be the least of her concerns.
The audios from Parrilli’s tapped calls — whose release authorized by different federal judges as part of multiple investigations — allegedly contain conversations where certain leaders from the Kirchnerite political camp, Fernández included, call for explicit pressuring members of the Judicial branch in order to get judges to rule in their favor in multiple cases.
The latest leak, published today, contains an alleged conversation between Parrilli and Ricardo Echegaray, former head of tax collecting agency, AFIP. In this case, the federal justice member on the other end of the alleged pressuring was Judge Sebastián Casanello. According to news channel TN, Echegaray asked Parrilli if there was any bearing to the rumors that the judge would indict him.
“He’s easily pressured, a wimp,” answers Parrilli about Casanello. In another passage of the conversation, the former AFI head points out that he is “afraid of this motherfucker,” doesn’t “really trust him,” and that “he lets himself be pressured by the media.” “He’s a Pelotudo,” he concluded.
That same day, Parrilli talked on the phone with then AFI’s number two, Martín Mena, and tells him: “Ricardo [Echegaray] called me. He says Casanello has him against a wall. See what you can do.”
If the allegations are found to indeed be true, the conversations would be indicative of the influential role exerting pressure has, at least with regards to the officials involved. Pressuring members of the Judicial Branch harms the division of powers and endangers the Republican system of government as a whole. After all, the checks and balances system is designed to prevent any branch from acquiring too much power. And unlike the legislative branch, the judiciary has the perk of being impartial and not having any type of political accountability, neither with the constituents nor with any party holding in the Casa Rosada at the time.
That’s why, after proving the authenticity of one of the audios, Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán decided to formally accuse Fernández of having abused her authority and promoting false accusations against Parrilli’s predecessor in AFI, Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso.
Questionable language aside, Cristina’s most controversial quote on the leaked audio so far is when she said: “Start gathering information on all the cases we framed him for. I mean… not framed him for but accused him of.” It will now be up to a judge to decide whether to uphold the accusation.
Should they be found guilty, this could be much worse than a PR scandal for the Kirchnerite officials involved. They could also be legally prevented from holding public office for a determinate period of time, as Article 248 of the Argentine criminal code establishes.
While prison time for this particular offence is possible, the maximum sentence is two years and generally people with sentences of less than three years don’t serve time and get parole instead.
Kirchnerite officials, especially Parrilli, have come out to rebuke the audios’ content, hinting that it could have been edited. “How did the conversation leak? How was it edited? Or you don’t know they can be edited?” said leader of the FpV caucus in the Lower House, Héctor Recalde, in a press conference he called with Parrilli to address the issue yesterday.
Both Fernández and Parrilli have claimed to be victims of political espionage. The former president never hid her disdain for the Judicial Branch. By the end of her second term, she used to refer to it as the “Judicial Party,” not so subtly implying they have political interests — different than her’s — and use their power to achieve them.
At the end of the day, it will be up to these same members of the Judicial Branch to make a thought and balanced decision about the audios’ authenticity and the consequences this may have. Unless their impartiality is influenced by the political power, that is.