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Lawfare: Tool of judicial warfare in politics

Laura Rangel Ybarra

November 10, 2023 | 9:56 a.m.

The term "lawfare", a fusion of English words law (law) and warfare (war), has become a key concept in the current political sphere. It reflects a reality where the judiciary, influenced by conservative sectors, is used as an instrument in the partisan struggle. But what does this practice really entail and what are its consequences?

Definition and Scope of Lawfare

"Lawfare" describes the judicialization of politics, used as a weapon to discredit and weaken political opponents. According to the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics (CELAG), this tactic requires the complicity of the media, which act as amplifiers of accusations and smear campaigns, often based on false or distorted information.

The Role of the Media in Lawfare

In a world dominated by instant information, the media plays a crucial role in shaping public opinion. In lawfare cases, journalists and media platforms become political actors, influencing public perception before a formal judgment is made.

Emblematic Lawfare Cases

Lula da Silva and Regime Change in Brazil

The most notable case is that of former Brazilian president Lula da Silva. Imprisoned for 580 days, his public image was severely affected, resulting in the political disqualification and subsequent election of Jair Bolsonaro. Although his conviction was later overturned, the damage had already been done, demonstrating the power of lawfare combined with media influence.

Cristina Fernández and Argentine Politics

In Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faced a similar fate. Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, she has been perpetually disqualified, a process amplified by an intense media campaign against her. This highlights how lawfare can be used to upset the political balance, regardless of the strength of the accusations.

Lawfare in Spain: The Case of Vicky Rosell

Spain is no stranger to this practice. Vicky Rosell, judge and former Podemos deputy, is a clear example. Accused by former minister José Manuel Soria and judicially persecuted, she had to leave her seat in 2016 to defend herself against him. Although she ultimately dismantled the allegations and her accuser was convicted, her case highlights how lawfare can be used to silence and neutralize uncomfortable political figures.

Podemos and the Lawfare Strategy

The political party Podemos has faced numerous archived cases that, despite their lack of foundation, managed to damage the reputation of its members. This demonstrates a systematic practice of lawfare, where unfounded accusations are used to weaken political opponents.

Lawfare and its Impact on Democracy

Lawfare represents a threat to democracy, as it subverts the principle of separation of powers and uses the judicial system as a political weapon. This practice not only undermines the credibility of judicial institutions, but also erodes public confidence in the democratic process.

Final reflection

Lawfare, as a tool of political warfare, raises serious concerns about the integrity of judicial systems and the health of our democracies. It is essential to recognize and address this practice to ensure that justice and politics follow separate paths, respecting the rule of law and the will of the people. In a world where information is power, media accountability and citizen oversight are more crucial than ever to protect our democratic systems from manipulation and abuse of power.

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