Honesty and decency have scored a small victory in Argentina. A government prosecution of a statistician has failed – for the moment at least. Her ‘offence’ was producing honest statistics rather than the untrue ones that the Government wanted her to produce. For this ‘crime’ a criminal prosecution was begun against her, under which she could have faced two to six years in prison.
A few months ago we reported here how Graciela Bevacqua and other Argentine statisticians were being systematically harassed by their government for refusing to acquiesce in the production of false figures for GDP and inflation. We also told how shopkeepers were being intimidated into giving false data about the prices they charged (to make the government’s data for inflation seem low) and how reputable international journals no longer publish official figures from Argentina on the grounds that they are lies and intended to deceive.
Bevacqua was director of Argentina's Consumer Price Index (INDEC) at the National Statistics Institute in Buenos Aires until she was fired for refusing to go along with such deceptions. Worse, she was then fined 500,000 Pesos – around $125,000 – as were other independent economists and statisticians - and criminal prosecutions were begun against her and others.
The prosecution was being driven by Guillermo Moreno, the Secretary for Domestic Trade. The American Statistical Association and others protested to the United Nations about this harassment of statisticians. On Friday the judge hearing the case against Bevacqua acquitted her.
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
The Spanish language newspaper La Nacion described the judgement as Guillermo Moreno losing another round against reality, and said that the Judge’s decision may become a legal landmark for similar cases and seeks to strengthen freedom of expression in the country. Its editor adds that Moreno has already lost cases against former employees of INDEC and against the president of Shell.
"This is very good news" said Bevacqua. "The arguments against us were ridiculous." "The complaint was crazy and was intended to frighten - something the government managed" said her lawyer.
However, the prosecution in this case can appeal, and other prosecutions, heard by other judges, against colleagues of Bevacqua are continuing. This has been a step in the right direction; but all is not yet well in Argentina.