Argentina's Supreme Court Monday ruled that the issue concerning the City of Buenos Aires' objection to the presidential decree banning on-site schooling until April 30 falls under its very own original jurisdiction as per Article 117 of the Constitution, thus rendering void all previous resolutions by any lower tribunal into that matter.
In the fight against the covid-19 pandemic, Argentine President Alberto Fernández issued an emergency executive order (decreto de necesidad y urgencia 241/2021) imposing a series of additional restrictions on the circulation of people within the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA). Among those measures was the banning of on-site classes.
AMBA includes but is not limited to the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA), where the opposition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC - Together for Change) rules. On the other hand, municipalities around CABA and also included in AMBA are within the province of Buenos Aires, where Governor Axel Kiciloff sides politically with the federal government.
Late on Sunday, CABA Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta decided at 10.30 pm against observing the presidential decree in matters of education, citing a fresh ruling by a Buenos Aires City court.
Monday's plenum decision by the country's highest court by 4 votes to 1 means that only those five magistrates can pass judgment on this particular issue at stake, as outlined in Article 117 of the Argentine Constitution, which is shaped after Article III Section 2 of that of the United States and which reads that the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction (i.e. not on appeal) in all matters concerning foreign ambassadors, ministers and consuls, and in which a province is a part.
Chief Justice Carlos Rosenkrantz and Justices Juan Carlos Maqueda, Ricardo Lorenzetti and Horacio Rosatti upheld the Attorney General's view while Justice Elena Highton de Nolasco cast a dissenting vote.
The Supreme Court now gave both parties (The National Government and that of CABA) five business days to file their cases.
Meanwhile, the teachers' Union of Education Workers (UTE) went on strike Monday citing fears of catching the coronavirus but with a clear political motive to support Fernández.
Faced with the insistence of the city government to keep the schools open with face-to-face classes, we called for a strike, said UTE in a statement.
UTE Deputy Secretary-General Eduardo López admitted the measure was in support of Fernández' decree and underlined that only in the first month of on-site classes there were 1,250 cases of Covid-19 at schools. It is a national law and, like any law, it must be followed and no one can force workers not to do it, he said.
Other unions marched through the streets of Buenos Aires in endorsement of UTE's actions.
Although some schools were open Monday, CABA Education Minister Soledad Acuña had anticipated face-to-face schooling would not be fully restored before Tuesday. Nevertheless, a private school in Buenos Aires was reported to have sacked two secondary school teachers who refused to give on-site classes Monday.
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