The context of misunderstandings in Argentinian society makes it necessary to pay close attention to hate speech in general, and particularly those that were directed specifically against the vice-president of the nation, Cristina Fernández.

Many people in politics and journalism have consented to and even encouraged them, by action and omission. It should be made clear that I am not talking here about the discrepancies inherent in politics, but rather about the death proposal, not encapsulated and frontally expressed against her.

By Miguel Julio Rodríguez Villafañe

At a rally in front of the Obelisk, in the centre of Buenos Aires, on 9 July this year, organised by the opposition, to the chant of “Argentina without Cristina” and with the approval of the participants, a guillotine was displayed with a sign at the top that read: “All: Prisoners, dead or exiled”.

Also, on 22 July this year, a group of demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the Instituto Patria in CABA, where the former president has an office. There, they threw rubbish, kicked in the doors and climbed into the windows of the Institute’s headquarters. Meanwhile, a man leading the group, with a megaphone and an angry tone, said that he would “go after Cristina with a machine gun” and added, “Cristina, now it’s your turn to be hanged, it’s the only way to get rid of you”. All of this in the presence of members of the City Police who observed without intervening.

For his part, the national deputy for Neuquén, Francisco Sánchez of the PRO party, on 22 August this year, called for the death penalty for Vice-President Cristina Fernández, even though he knew that the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights establishes, with constitutional hierarchy, that the death penalty is prohibited in Argentina (art. 1).

In turn, on 30 August 2022, Román Gutiérrez, councillor for Juntos por el Cambio in Pergamino, posted on his Twitter account, referring to the Vice-President, that “she should be shot”.

All this in the media protagonism of who kills her first, albeit symbolically, in a real serial hatred as a contagious virus without limits.

In March, she had just suffered stone-throwing attacks on her office in the Senate.

Likewise, the death threats already had a precedent: in 2021, mortuary bags, one with her face on them, were hung in front of the Casa Rosada.

It is one thing to have a disagreement with a person; it is another to publicly invite that person to die. Of course, this is an invitation to commit assassination, in true perpetration-by-means or indirect perpetration of the crime.

On Thursday, 1 September, Fernando Sabag Montiel fired a gun, in perfect working order, loaded with five bullets, a few centimetres from the Vice-President’s face, which, due to the attacker’s lack of skill, did not work. He had many Nazi symbols tattooed on him, such as the “Iron Cross” (a German decoration with a swastika in the centre), the “black sun” (associated with Nazi philosophy) and the “Thor’s hammer” (a symbol adopted by neo-Nazi groups).

The attempted murder shocked the country and is being investigated by federal judge María Eugenia Capuchetti. It was strongly condemned at the international level, although in the country the president of the Pro Patricia Bullrich and other related political sectors and certain journalism, did not speak out with the forcefulness that is necessary to have against hate speech and, on the contrary, seek to deny the reality of the event or relativise it.

It should be remembered that at the dawn of the present democratic period, in March 1984, the law was passed approving the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José, Costa Rica) which establishes, in article 13, that “Incitement to violence or any other similar illegal action against any person or group of persons shall be prohibited by law for any reason whatsoever…”. This pact, which the 1994 constitutional reform gave it constitutional hierarchy (art. 75 inc.22).

In the same year, 1984, the Law for the Defence of Democracy 23.077 was condemned.

Subsequently, Law 23.592/88 stipulated that “those who … by any means encourage or initiate persecution or hatred against a person or group of persons because of their … political ideas, shall be punished with imprisonment of one month to three years” (art. 3).

The latter offences are known as hate crimes, a name that emerged in the United States in 1985. Accordingly, it is not permitted to promote or encourage rejection, contempt, hatred and/or discrimination, which leads to the intention of causing serious harm or death to the victims of this attitude of pathological animosity.

Furthermore, Article 209 of the Penal Code provides that “Anyone who publicly instigates the commission of a specific crime against a person or institution shall be punished, for instigation alone, with imprisonment of two to six years, depending on the seriousness of the crime and the other circumstances established in Article 41”.

For his part, the current Acting Attorney General Eduardo Casal, head of the prosecutors, has not issued an express resolution reiterating Resolution 319, adopted in 1992 by the Ministry of Justice, before the constitutional reform of 1994 and the enactment of Law 27.148, Organic Law of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It instructed prosecutors that “in the face of the actions of groups claiming totalitarian ideologies that seek to recreate the ideology and methodology of Nazism and its symbols… it is necessary for public bodies to take decisions that imply a manifest and express repudiation of the actions of such anti-democratic groups, implementing the corresponding legal measures that constitute acts of discrimination and attacks on Democracy”. The resolution added that “in this regard, Parliament has made the relevant legal instruments available through Laws 23.592 and 23.077”.

Also, Law 26.522/09 on Audiovisual Communication Services establishes, in Article 70, that “The programming of the services provided for in this law shall avoid content that promotes or incites discriminatory treatment based on … political opinions or any other kind …”. Violation of this provision has the condemnation of fines that “are calculated on the advertising turnover”, (Resolution 661/2014 of the AFSCA).

It has not yet been seen that those responsible for the various situations, in all the ambits of competence, have adopted, with the necessary firmness and promptness, the corresponding measures in the referred issues. It is urgent that they act and do not become mediated accomplices of unacceptable crimes.

Miguel Julio Rodríguez Villafañe is a constitutional lawyer from Córdoba, a former federal judge in Córdoba and an opinion journalist.