Justice has Alberto Fernández on hold less than two weeks before the primary elections in Argentina. The president is trying to reach a deal with the prosecutor investigating him for having violated his own decree prohibiting social gatherings in the pandemic by participating, with a dozen people, in the birthday of his wife, Fabiola Yáñez, on July 14, 2020.
The celebration took place when the Argentines were complying with a strict quarantine that barely allowed them to leave their homes and prohibited all types of social gatherings, but it came to light a few weeks ago after the publication of a photo showing Fernández, Yáñez and their guests in a room in the presidential residence of Olivos without a mask or respect for social distance. Later videos confirmed the head of state’s participation in the party.
Last Thursday, prosecutor Ramiro González announced the opening of a criminal investigation against the president and the other guests following the complaint filed by a foundation opposing Judge Sebastián Casanello. Half an hour after the complaint was known, Fernández voluntarily went to court and offered to hand over half of his salary for four months to the Malbrán Institute (the main Argentine reference center for infectious diseases) to repair the damage caused and not be prosecuted.
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Fernández, a lawyer and university professor of criminal law, “appeared to court in his own right and without a lawyer to propose compensation for the potential damage he would have caused,” the presidency said in a statement. The total amount offered for the extinction of the criminal action is 630,518 pesos (about 33,141 reais).
In his own defense, the president argued that this is an “abstract danger crime” and that “there was no impact on the legal good of public health”, since no contagion was registered as a result of the meeting. “In view of the lack of harmful result, I place to your consideration the criminal insignificance (non-social or moral) of the denounced conduct that did not harm the legal interest protected by its atypicality or lack of material anti-legality, and therefore I request that the present complaint be rejected”, he stated in his writing.
The prosecutor is expected to deliberate this week on the presidential proposal, as well as the requests not to be processed by the other nine investigated. For the time being, it has positioned itself only on one of them, the request presented by Stefania Domínguez, a friend of the first lady. The prosecutor on Monday rejected the unconstitutionality proposal presented by Domínguez’s defense against the presidential decree that established mandatory isolation as a measure to prevent the spread of covid-19 in Argentina.
The scandal of the party at the residence of Olivos (the local press calls it Olivosgate) was a heavy blow to Fernández’s presidential image. The Government is now trying to minimize its impact on the situationist candidates running in the September 12 primary, prior to the November 14 legislative elections. In these, half of the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate will be renewed. The result is fundamental for the Peronist Executive’s margin of action: in the first two years of Fernández’s term, the ruling coalition Frente de Todos had a majority in the Senate, but not in the Deputies, where it had to negotiate each law with the opposition.
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