Gov’t puts brakes on attorney general reform

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Vote scheduled for today in Lower House pulled following internal divisions in Let’s Change

The government has put the brakes on its bid to undermine Attorney General Alejandra Gils Carbó’s authority, pulling a vote originally scheduled for today amidst glaring divisions within its ranks.
Upon request from Let’s Change (Cambiemos), the bill reforming the mandate and authority of the Attorney General’s Office as well as the impeachment procedure and the specialized prosecutor’s units was taken off the agenda for today’s session in the Lower House, leaving the door open for further amendments to the draft.
Congressional sources cited by the DyN news agency said that Let’s Change caucus chair Mario Negri of the Radical Party (UCR) received instruction from to Pink House to postpone the debate on the bill that the government has been pushing with support of the Renewal Front (FR). The decision to cool the debate comes not only after intense criticism from an ally such as lawmaker Elisa Carrió (Civic Coalition, a member of the Let’s Change coalition) but also from jurists, specialized NGOs, magistrates associations and the opposition.
Carrió opposes the bill without siding with Gils Carbó. According to the Civic Coalition lawmaker, the Attorney General should be impeached on the basis of specific charges and not removed by a reform disrupting the legal system. Carrió also feels that an Attorney General’s term should be 10 years and not five, as proposed by the Let’s Change bill, because if the term is too similar to a government’s period in office, the executive branch will find it easier to define who occupies this supposedly independent post.
With these internal divisions on display, the FR also signalled that it would not lend itself to establishing quorum on the day of the vote. “First they have to come to an agreement and find a consensus” Camaño said. Sergio Massa’s FR had been a major backer of the initiative after winning control of the Bicameral Commission that, according to the proposed bill would have enjoyed expanded powers.
Last week and after months of being stuck in committee, a Lower House committee approved a raft of changes that the government is seeking to implement,with the decision to limit the attorney general’s term to five year, proving among the most contentious.
The government has consistently called for Gils Carbó to resign since December of 2015 and the language contained in the bill approved in committee yesterday does not explicitly state how it would affect the attorney general’s current term. The version approved yesterday increased the mandate for attorney generals to five years from four, and the term is renewable once. In the aftermath of the approval by the committee Garavano celebrated the proposals and once again called for Gils Carbó to step aside.
Gils Carbó was nominated by then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and approved by the Senate with a super-majority in August 2012. Gils Carbó is associated with Legitimate Justice, a group that some consider close to Kirchnerite political positions. The attroney general has also drawn fire for her recess appointments of prosecutors. Her impeachment currently requires a supermajority in both chambers of Congress to go forward.
Yesterday Attorney General Offices from across Latin America and Spain and Portugal issued a statement backing Gils Carbó, saying that the proposed reforms could affect her offices’s independence and autonomy from both the Executive and the Legislative branches. Representatives from the Attorney General Offices of Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela signed the statement.
Walking it back, then out
Prior to the decision to suspend the vote and facing criticism from various quarters about the ramifications about its reform of the Attorney General’s Office and the country’s prosecutors, the government had been looking to introduce amendments that will ensure that at least some of the specialized investigative units will remain untouched.
Under the terms of the original draft approved by a Lower House committee earlier this week, prosecutors who did not have five years of experience as a general prosecutor could not be appointed to head up one of the specialized units such as those dealing with violence against women and the search for children snatched during the military dictatorship.
The walking back of the bill also includes a re-drafting of language that specifies that prosecutors that have been reassigned to new jurisdictions return to their original posts within 48 hours of the enactment of an eventual law. The provision would have involved the sudden transfer of 37 prosecutors from all over the country and for sensitive investigations to be left without a prosecutor overnight.
Some of those cases are also of political interest to the government, such as the investigation lead by Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán into the so-called K money-trail and which has tycoon Lázaro Báez behind bars on money-laundering charges.
According to the language in the bill, he would withdraw from his current position. As such, Télam has reported that only appointments made since 2012 will be undone — that is those carried out by Gils Carbó.

Herald with DyN, Télam

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