By far the most relevant aspect of Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio’s ruling regarding the AMIA cover up case from today is the indictment of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and his consequent request for the Senate to strip her of her congressional immunity that would pave the way to order her preemptive arrest.
So the question on everyone’s minds right now is: What happens next? Can she really be arrested?
Well, it is unlikely we will get news from the Upper House soon, considering it is currently on recess. Yes, the Senate is holding extraordinary sessions right now, but it is doing so at the request of the Executive Branch and with the intention of debating the several structural reforms that the Macri administration is trying to implement. This means that the government would have to expressly ask senators to discuss Bonadio’s request.
Since this administration has always insisted on the need to let the Judiciary act independently, it is unlikely they will try to impose this debate.
Moreover, there are several things that would need to happen before Bonadio’s request reaches the Senate floor. And even if it did, it would have few chances of succeeding considering Peronist senators – led by Miguel Ángel Pichetto – have already warned about their reluctance to vote in its favor unless there is a firm sentence (there is not).
Still, it’s worth taking a look at the process that Bonadio’s request should have to go through and what would need to happen for Cristina Kirchner to be stripped of her congressional immunity.
Once Congress’ ordinary sessions start again in March of 2018, the request should be presented at the Senate’s front desk – yes, it has one – and from there be sent to a special congressional committee. In this case, it should be the Constitutional Affairs Committee. Once there, senators members of the committee it would have to debate and decide whether to send it to the floor or not.
If the request makes it to the floor, then two thirds of the senators present in that session would have to vote in favor for it to prosper. Considering this would be one of the most important sessions in history, it is not far-fetched to assume all 72 of them – well, maybe not former President Carlos Menem – would be present and, therefore, 48 senators should vote in favor.
However, the initiative would theoretically face a dead end here: the head of the Justicialist (AKA Peronist) caucus, Miguel Ángel Pichetto, has already anticipated his refusal to vote in favor while the investigation is still ongoing: “I believe it should be done when there is a firm sentence,” he said in October.
Considering that the caucus’ other 24 members are more than likely to vote along the same lines, and that Unidad Ciudadana’s eight members – the former President included – would do so as well, the request would not prosper even if everyone else voted in favor.
This position marks a contrast with that of the Lower House, which did get enough votes to strip former Planning Minister Julio de Vido from his immunity last October, following the request of another federal judge in one of the many corruption cases in which he has been indicted.
The former President announced she will hold a press conference today at 4:30 PM to address the ruling so stay tuned for more.