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Cristina’s Christmas Present: Argentine President Admits Her Salary–Mexican Justices Not So Willing

January 11, 2010

By Manuel Mora MacBeath*

* A journalist based in Mexico who works for the National Security Archive’s Mexico Project.

“Poor Cristina” is a popular Spanish song about Christina Onassis that claims she was so poor the only thing she had was money. The main character of this story has nothing to do with the Cristina from the song.  Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, unlike “poor Cristina,” however, has power.  She is the President of Argentina. Anyone who is president of a country like Argentina has power… but not necessarily money, or at least not as much as someone might expect before taking a look at her pay stub. As Cristina Kirchner said before she made her paystub public: “There are other government officials who make more money than me. I don’t even get a Christmas bonus”.

Why did Cristina Kirchner give out a copy of her pay stub to a handful of reporters who attended her holiday celebration? What do the Justices of the Supreme Court of Mexico have to do with the Argentine President’s outburst of openness? It all started on October 8, 2008 when the Access to Information (ATI) Committee of Mexico’s Supreme Court made the decision to withhold information related to the salary of the Mexican Justices.

The Committee stated that releasing this information posed a risk to national security, explaining:

The actions destined to protect the stability of the institutions that comprise the Mexican federation are put at risk when information that can affect the physical integrity of the highest authorities of the three branches of government is released…

Ironically, the pay stub of Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who is part of one of the three branches of government referenced by the Mexican Supreme Court’s ATI Committee, has been released; the Presidency’s Freedom of Information (FOI)  office made it public in response to access to information request 0210000008507 – and no national security or privacy concerns were cited. Perhaps the members of Mexican Supreme Court’s ATI Committee was not aware that one of the branches of government had no problem releasing pay stubs that demonstrate that the Mexican President actually earns the amount he claims to earn, given that such information is critical to accountability in a country ravaged by corruption. While Mexicans believe the  Supreme Court Justices make a lot of money, no one can verify the amount and no one can access documents that prove that the information provided on the Supreme Court Web site is true.

The same situation occurred with Cristina Kirchner.  The arguments used by the Mexican Court were cited exactly a month later by the Argentine National Directorate for Privacy Protection (Dirección de Nacional de Protección de Datos Personales de Argentina – DNPDP) to deny access to the Argentine President’s pay stubs.

“It is worth citing an international case, the Access to Information Committee of Mexico’s Supreme Court opposed the release of information related to the pay stubs of the Court’s Justices because it considered that releasing this information could affect national security” cites ruling 37/08 of the DNPDP.

The Argentine secrecy argument, supported by Mexican secrecy criteria, was challenged in Buenos Aires in July 2008:  the Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) through Roberto Amette and Emelina Alonso requested “a copy of the pay stubs of the President, for every month since she took office until the present”.

The response of the President’s office was a denial.  Nonetheless, ADC, in conjunction with the person who received the negative response from the Mexican Supreme Court, took the case to the appellate courts.  The Argentine tribunals have not yet decided on the case, but the powerful Cristina Kirchner was forced to hand out copies of her pay stubs to journalists who attended her holiday party at the Casa Rosada a couple days before Christmas.

This outburst of openness came as response to an article published that day by La Nación, which stated that based on ADC’s access to information requests, the President’s pay stub was considered a “state secret.”  So as a Christmas present, Cristina gave the reporters who cover her daily activities one of the most coveted news of the day: the document that proves her monthly salary.

In Mexico, access to information is a right granted by the constitution, we have a Federal Transparency Law that covers President Calderón and the 11 Justice.  In  Argentina there is only a Privacy Law (an access to information law is now being drafted).  The difference, is that in Argentina, Cristina Kirchner made her pay stubs public, and in Mexico the Court’s Justices, well… we know they make “enough” money but don’t ask exactly how much it is because Mexicans don’t have the right to know… at least not for now.

By the way, according to her pay stub, the president of Argentina has a monthly salary of about 4,300 dollars.  Poor Cristina!

One Comment
  1. Jaqz permalink
    January 8, 2012 10:11 am

    The salary is in SGD right?

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