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ARGENTINA | 02-08-2020 19:23

Protesters rally against government's judicial reform

Demonstrators reject proposed reform bill, accuse government of seeking to deliver "impunity" for ex-Kirchnerite officials.

Around 300 protesters demonstrated at Buenos Aires' famous Obelisk on Saturday, in rejection of the government's proposed judicial reform bill.

The 'banderazo' rally, the latest in a series of anti-government protests held during the coronavirus pandemic, saw demonstrators accuse the government of seeking to deliver "impunity" for former president and current Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015). 

The protest was significantly smaller than the last major demonstration on July 9, Argentina's Independence Day, and passed off without incident.

Those rallying were in breach of the mandatory social isolation measures put in place to tackle the spread of Covid-19, which to date seen almost 200,000 people infected in Argentina. The novel coronavirus has claimed more than 3,500 lives to date.

President Alberto Fernández presented his reform bill for Argentina's federal justice system on Wednesday, saying he was seeking to "overcome the crisis that affects the credibility" of the Judiciary. The proposed legislation, which would see the number of federal courts increased and establish a commission to study potential further changes to the Council of Magistrates and Supreme Court,  entered the Senate on Friday.

Many opposition lawmakers – all of whom rebuffed invites to attend the event at which the president unveiled the bill – reject the government's claims, charging that their true intention is to ensure the Executive exerts greater control over the Judiciary.

The lightning rod for much of the criticism is Fernández de Kirchner. The former president faces a string of corruption allegations in the court and much of the opposition alleges that the reform bill is an attempt to dismiss the accusations against her. 

The government has said its bill stipulates that for cases that are already in process, judges will remain in charge.

Over the weekend, opposition Juntos por el Cambio Senator Esteban Bullrich claimed that the package would cost between five and six billion pesos (roughly US$65-79 million dollars).

"Right now, we cannot take charge of what the impunity of the lady is going to cost. So I do not want this reform to go ahead," Rosa Bayón, a 67-year-old retiree, said as she demonstrated on Saturday.

Gustavo Rodríguez, a 41-year-old photographer, said he was demonstrating to call for the reform to be revoked. "There are many more important things than reforming justice, such as companies that have failed, many needs," he said.

– TIMES/AFP

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