Argentina needs the “urgent implementation of remedies against the evil that confronts us,” Argentine President Mr. Kirchner said in a brief but emotionally charged television address to the nation late on Wednesday. He added that he felt compelled to act in order to “preserve institutions from men who are not up to the task” facing a country in a political and economic crisis.
Mr. Kirchner, 53, took office May 25 after his opponent in a presidential runoff vote, former President Carlos Saúl Menem, unexpectedly withdrew from the race. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Kirchner promised to end what he called “obscure agreements, the manipulation of political institutions and spurious pacts behind society’s back.” He then moved quickly to purge the armed forces and the Federal Police.
The Supreme Court has been repeatedly accused of tailoring its verdicts in return for payoffs and political favors. Mr. Menem, who governed Argentina in the 1990’s, appointed most of the justices, who are considered to be still so loyal to him that the phrase “automatic majority” is often used to describe their habit of voting in favor of positions and interests he favors.
Congress initiated impeachment proceedings against all nine justices of the court during a period of political turbulence 18 months ago in which the country had five presidents in two weeks and demonstrators crowded the streets calling on all government officials to resign. But the investigation was shelved late last year as a result of a deal negotiated between Mr. Menem’s followers and a rival faction of the ruling Peronist party.
In his speech, Mr. Kirchner was especially critical of the chief justice, Julio Nazareno, whom he accused of “inappropriate conduct” and applying “improper pressure” on the new government. Chief Justice Nazareno is a former law partner of Mr. Menem’s brother.