The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, September 12, 2003

Argentina's great experiment - a little background

I mentioned on August 30 the decision of Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner to have the amnesties for junta-era crimes revoked by the Congress.

I know nowhere near enough about the guy to be definite: but I get a strong whiff of Tony Blair - whose classic was the Kosovo war, for which (unlike Iraq) he was, as I recall, the prime mover, chivvying along a reluctant Clinton. He wanted to get rid of the bad man. But, by extending the range of circumstances in which aggression is deemed legitimate [1], he sets himself up for blowback - not to mention the rest of us. Primum non nocere finds no place in Dr Blair's Casebook when he sees a cancer to cut - the more heroic the surgery, the better!

When I looked for the earlier piece, I could find no evidence that Kirchner had made ripping up the amnesties part of his platform, or even mentioned to voters that he was planning to do so. Not that Argentinians haven't approved the move: the psychology of their reaction is certainly well worth considering. And, as I believe, the armed forces are neither ready, willing nor able to place on the government the sort of pressures that, for instance, the Turkish military wield over their (nominal) political masters. Don't expect to see The Return of the Junta any time soon.

It just seems like a piece of pure political onanism, at a time when, socio-economically, Argentina - a hundred years ago, one of the richest countries in the world, in terms of per capita GDP - needs a lot of work, to put it mildly. It's the sort of hubris that so often brings a richly rewarded nemesis.

Obviously, a lot of work required to go beyond generalities - and the topic is unlikely to get the time while Hutton is in full swing. Meanwhile, there is a useful piece in Los Andes detailing for those of us playing catch-up the history of the various amnesties in question [2] - the sort of detail which is annoyingly assumed in news stories.

And, though the Spanish extradition request came to nothing (August 30 piece), the Argentinian authorities are apparently seeking the arrest of Alfredo Astiz in connection with an extradition request from France - the case of the murder of French nuns Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet.

A story well worth keeping half an eye on that's not coming to a head any time soon, I fancy. (Famous last words...)

  1. The idea was the humanitarian considerations could override respect for national sovereignty, despite an absence of a threat to neighbouring countries. Eventually, the UN Security Council decided to agree to disagree and NATO went ahead on its own.

  2. Related material in the paper here.

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