The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, considers Gabriel Boric a friend. The feeling is mutual. In April of last year, the Chilean visited Buenos Aires on his first trip abroad as president, was enthusiastic about the idea of a new Latin American left front and received a Charly Garcia record that Fernandez treasured in his house as a gift. Since then, however, relations between the two countries have been a path of thorns. A number of small diplomatic incidents, which weigh so heavily on bilateral relations, have dulled a relationship that was expected to be bright. The last one was the work of Fernandez. The Argentine put his signature on a letter from the Puebla Group, made up of former presidents and progressive leaders, with harsh criticism of Chilean justice. “I respect the institutions, I expect the same from my colleagues,” Boric replied.
The Argentine Foreign Ministry did not make any reference to the letter, but on the Chilean side the reactions were open. The chancellor, Antonia Urrejola, said that she had spoken with her Justice couple, Luis Cordero, and with the Argentine chancellor in Santiago, Rafael Bielsa. “It seems to us [junto a Cordero] that the statements in that letter are absolutely out of order. The Government not only respects, but also protects the autonomy of the Judiciary and the Public Ministry,” he said.
The text, titled Justice delayed is justice denied, charges against an investigation into illegal financing of politics by the mining company SQM. The signatories specifically support one of the eight defendants, the leader of the Progressive Party of Chile (PRO), Marco Enriquez-Ominami, who risks up to four years in prison for tax crimes.
He lawfare It is the use of the judiciary for political purposes. Leaders of the region such as the vice president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, consider themselves their victims. In fact, the Argentine government is in an open war against the Judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular, which it accuses of persecuting Kirchner in court to outlaw her as a candidate for president in 2023. The terms of the Argentine dispute , which is aired in the media, does not fit into the Chilean canons. That is why the rejection of the letter from the Puebla Group was general. “It ignores relevant procedural issues of the Chilean institutional system,” said Justice Minister Luis Cordero. “I would read it as political support for ME-O (Enriquez-Ominami), but from the institutional point of view, its content is inappropriate,” he added.
The letter, says Paz Zarate, a Chilean lawyer who is an expert in international law, “is an interference in foreign affairs.” “The Chilean government’s protest is fully justified. The problem is that the government [de Gabriel Boric] transforms state issues into something personal. Last I saw, the Foreign Ministry was considering a protest note. I hope it doesn’t stay in consideration. Courteous does not take away courage, ”he adds.
For the Argentine analyst Jorge Castro, president of the Strategic Planning Institute, the problem has been that Fernandez is the only active member of the Puebla Group. “He is not simply someone with opinions on various issues, in this case the delay in Ominami’s trial, but he is the representative of Argentina against Chile. What is unusual is that he does not seem to be aware of this basic issue”, says Castro. “Chile and President Boric have a very marked institutional political sense, they have strong institutions, including Justice, and the entire political system participates in this,” he adds.
The letter incident, however, is the latest in a long line. The most notorious stumbling block was the leak of an audio of a private meeting of the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which Minister Urrejola was heard protesting against Ambassador Bielsa. The anger, which Urrejola made known to his Argentine counterpart, Santiago Cafiero, occurred after Bielsa criticized the Boric government’s rejection of the Dominga mining-port project.
Urrejola received harsh criticism after the leak of the audio, which came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The main public consequence was the departure of the head of Communications of the portfolio, Lorena Diaz. One of the most frequent reproaches by the detractors of the Boric government is the number of mistakes they make derived from a lack of experience.
“The Chilean government apologized that there were no consequences because Alberto Fernandez said there were no consequences,” says Zarate, “but that is the wrong way of looking at it. It is not worthy for Chile to have to resort to President Fernandez saying that it is irrelevant, when the Argentine ambassador to Chile is seriously insulted in the audio, who is also a former foreign minister.” While the swell had not yet calmed down, the letter from the Puebla Group arrived. Diplomatic relations between Argentina and Chile seem to have no peace.