Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spanish prosecutor Baltasar Garzón suspended

Prosecutor Baltasar Garzón hits the headlines once again. Famous for prosecuting Mr. Pinochet in the late 1990s, Garzón investigated a series of complaints relating to more than 100,000 cases of enforced disappearances that are alleged to have occurred during the Spanish civil war and the regime of General Francisco Franco. The case is now ripe for trial.

Yet, this trial is not welcomed by some Spaniards. Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary suspended Garzón earlier this month based on the charge that Garzón acted “knowingly exceeding his jurisdiction.” The claim of lack of jurisdiction is based on the argument that these crimes are not longer subject to prosecution after Spain enacted an amnesty law right after General Franco’s death. Furthermore, the statute of limitations has allegedly passed as well.

This law is certainly problematic. First, criminal trial have often being used to establish an historical record of horrendous events (Nazi prosecutions and various international courts are examples of such efforts). Second, the disappearances clearly led to death of the disappeared. As a matter of justice, the statute of limitations for murder should not have expired yet. Investigating and prosecuting murders committed against kidnapped individuals require time, often a generation, perhaps more. It is thus essential that the statue of limitations is generous enough to accommodate the reality of these cases

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Notes on a previous bailout

I am reading a Seth Borgos's chapter on industrial policy in the US (published in 'Managing Modern Capitalism: Industrial Renewal and Workplace Democracy in the United States and Western Europe' a book edited by Hancock and colleagues in 1991) and on page 75 I found this interesting observation with regard to the 1980 bailout of Chrysler:

Chrysler Corporation embodied the ills of American manufacturing as defined by the new corporativists: short term profit taking, inattention to quality, lack of innnovation, warfare between labor and management. Thus, the effort to rescue Chrisler from bankruptcy in 1979-1980 offered an ideal opportunity to articulate a national industrial policy. But the deabate was framed in a much more expdient fashion; bailout advocates [...] argued simply that the impact of a Chrysler failure would devastate their local economies. On those narrow terms, they collected just enough votes in Congress to win. some innovative features in the Chrysler legislation, including an employee.

In times of wholesale bailouts, it's interesting to note that (1) 30 years ago similar things were happening, (2) some of the reasons why firms need bailout are the same, and (3) that bailouts tend not to lead to policy reform.