BUENOS AIRES — There are a handful of images I've seen in the news recently that remind me of the postcards people used to send back home. Short and sweet, those postcards were like informal news dispatches, instructive little snapshots of events beyond the country's borders. The pictures I'm thinking about now are equally informative. They're also relevant to events happening here in Argentina.
The first one comes from Spain and shows police pushing Rodrigo Rato, a former deputy-prime minister and International Montary Fund (IMF) chief, into a squad car. Rato, hailed at one point as "the best minister of the economy in history," is one of the most prominent faces of his party, the conservative Popular Party. Now he is accused of corruption.
The image shocked the Spanish public. And yet unlike in Argentina, where the government of President Cristina Kirchner blames the media for all its problems, the ruling party in Spain isn't lashing out at the press. Nor does it presume to give the judiciary lessons, or try to use its influence to cover up the scandal.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy acknowledged that the Rato case has hit the party hard at a time when Spain is weeks away from local elections. And yet he stressed that prosecutors will have full autonomy as they investigate the affair. There was no attempt to paint the case as political persecution of any kind.
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Kirchner on television denouncing Clarin — Source: Wikipedia
The second image comes from closer to home, in Brazil, where the treasurer of the country's ruling Workers Party (PT), Joao Vaccari Neto — handcuffed and with his arms behind him — was put on public display following his arrest on charges of money laundering, bribing construction firms and financing political activities with Petrobras funds, which are public property. Vaccari is no minor political operator
: he handled a good many financial decisions for the party of Presidents Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
(2003-2010) and Dilma Rousseff.
Did the Rousseff administration respond by pointing the finger elsewhere? No, not once. How many judges and prosecutors has Dilma Rousseff accused of mounting a "soft coup" or trying to "destabilize" her government? None — which is a big deal because the charges against Vaccari and, in essence, the entire PT, are far from trivial.
President Rousseff has already taken a huge hit: Her approval rating is at 13%, one of the lowest in history. So how did she react? Neither a tweet (hint hint, Mrs Kirchner
?) nor a Facebook entry nor — not a single public declaration, choosing instead to let justice take its course.
The last image comes from just across the Andes, in Chile, where President Michelle Bachelet
recently had to fire her son, a minor government official, because of allegations that he and his wife used their privileged connections and maybe even insider information to execute a multi-million-dollar real estate deal.
The president's son, Sebastián Dávalos, was summoned for questioning. His house was searched. And he could eventually end up in court. The political impact on his mother is terrible: her popularity has plummeted since the scandal broke in February. But at no point has Bachelet claimed to be the victim of a political witch hunt. What she did say is that "as a mother and as president, these have been painful moments." She went on to say that her job as president "requires having to make painful decisions."
Pictures, as they say, can tell 1,000 words. Unfortunately, the government in Argentina doesn't seem to be listening.