Argentina's reforming president takes on the judges
By Seamus Mirodan in Buenos Aires (Filed: 07/06/2003)
Nestor Kirchner, Argentina's new president, has whipped up a whirlwind of change during his first fortnight in power. He has changed the face of the armed forces and the federal police and has now turned his attention to the supreme court.
Mr Kirchner's reforms have been so sweeping that even Elisa Carrio, the nation's most renowned anti-corruption campaigner, has warned him to "keep cool" and "not take on all the interest groups at once".
Her remarks followed Mr Kirchner's televised declaration of war on the supreme court in which he called on legislators to focus their scrutiny on members of the highest tribunal in the land.
He described the Chief Justice, Julio Nazareno, as "the past that refuses to change".
Mr Kirchner bluntly accused Mr Nazareno of exerting pressure on executive power and exhorting congress to promote the political power of his court.
The new president's first move was to replace the chief of staff of the armed forces and the head of the navy. Vowing to rid the army of anyone remotely linked to "dirty war" crimes, when the nation's military dictatorship murdered some 30,000 civilians, he also forced the retirement of 27 generals.
He then announced a large-scale purging of the federal police. Argentina has been spared the high levels of crime of many other Latin American countries but in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in the nation's history crimes such as armed robbery and kidnapping have become commonplace.
The entire top tier of the police force was replaced with only the police chief, Roberto Giacomino, remaining in office.
Affirmative action appear's to be the president's mechanism for attempting to convince a disillusioned and politically apathetic population that a new generation of politicians will not hold the nation to ransom in the same way as their predecessors.
His chief of cabinet explained: "We are seeking to change Argentine political logic which in the past often functioned like a game of tit for tat."
People are giving the new style a cautious welcome. Marcelo Rosita, a Buenos Aires restaurateur, said: "I didn't vote for Kirchner as I thought he would be just like the rest. But he's been doing exactly the kind of things which will make people believe a new chapter is being turned in Argentine politics."
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