Fernández moves to impeach Court Justice Rosatti over tax dispute

The president is seeking to have the Justice investigated after the federal tax share dispute

by Lucía Cholakian Herrera
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President Alberto Fernández has announced that he will seek to impeach Supreme Court President Horacio Rosatti, with the support of allied governors. He also said he would order the Justice Minister to investigate alleged corruption between Buenos Aires City government officials and local contractors and businessmen.

In a January 1 New Year’s letter marking the beginning of an electoral year, Fernández wrote there had been “unacceptable interventions of the judicial power over other powers in Argentina, demonstrating the outrageous ties between part of the political class and the judiciary.” 

To pursue the impeachment, the President will need the procedure to be accepted by the Impeachment commission in the Lower House, which would investigate Rosatti’s professional performance. A two-thirds majority vote would be required in both lower and upper chambers of Congress for Rosatti to be impeached.

These developments mark a tumultuous political start to 2023, ten months before the presidential election in October. 

On December 21, the Supreme Court ruled that federal tax funding for Buenos Aires city should be restored. President Alberto Fernández had reallocated part of the funds to Buenos Aires Province in order to increase police salaries after officers protested in 2020. The Justices’ ruling marked a victory for Buenos Aires city mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta in the dispute with Fernández, his political antagonist and potential opponent in the 2023 election.

As a result of the court’s order, the federal government must now transfer 2.95% of the relevant tax income to the city each day through the National Bank of Argentina. The city had initially requested a 3.5% share of the funds. 

The President and many governors said that the Court’s decision was ‘impossible to comply with’. The national government has offered to make the payments in bonds. 

Fernández’s announcements indicate that the Frente de Todos has chosen to take a new strategy by questioning the legitimacy of the Court’s decisions as a whole. 

Rosatti and the Court

Horacio Rosatti and fellow Justice Carlos Rosenkrantz were appointed to the Supreme Court by Mauricio Macri in 2016, a designation controversially made by presidential decree. It was only approved by the Senate six months after the appointment was made. Rosatti has since voted for himself to become the Court’s president and, later, to join the Council of Magistrates in 2021.

His relationship with the Fernández administration was rocky from the start: he opposed several executive initiatives, voting against the suspension of in-person schooling during the pandemic and arguing that a decree declaring telecommunications to be public services was unconstitutional. He also rejected a number of objections from Cristina Kirchner alleging that the Vialidad case was procedurally flawed.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the tax share dispute was taken by the government as a politicized ruling reflecting what officials say is an institutional bias in favor of opposition coalition, Juntos por el Cambio.

In a speech in Avellaneda last week, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said that “we’re at a time when laws are suspended by the Court, something that only the Congress is entitled to do.”

Over the past few days, Frente de Todos representatives have also pointed to conversations leaked from the phone of Buenos Aires City security minister, Marcelo D’Alessandro, which appear to reveal informal alliances between the Court and the government. Chats between D’Alessandro and lobbyist Silvio Robles, Rosatti’s confidant, appear to show negotiations to define the Court’s tax share ruling and the members of the Council of Magistrates.  

Alberto Fernández has called a meeting with governors for Tuesday morning to address the matter. He has told the press that drafts of the impeachment request are already being circulated.

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