Cristina Kirchner denounces that the trial she faces for alleged corruption is “against all Peronism”

Argentina's Vice President Cristina Kirchner greets her supporters from one of the balconies of Congress, in Buenos Aires, on August 23, 2022.
Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Kirchner greets her supporters from one of the balconies of Congress, in Buenos Aires, on August 23, 2022.JUAN MABROMATA (AFP)

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner spoke for almost an hour in her own defense. She tried to do it first before the judges who judge her as the alleged head of an illicit association created to enrich herself with money from public works. They didn’t let her. She then decided to speak before a camera that she placed in her Senate office. She denounced that the investigation she faces is actually “against all Peronism”, a “fiction” without evidence or legal support. She placed former president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) behind the play, representative of “those who go for everything, for wages, the rights of workers and retirees.” When the camera was turned off, Kirchner went out to one of the balconies of the Congress. Hundreds of followers were waiting for her in the square. She raised her hands, sang the Peronist march in chorus, and left.

This Monday was the last of nine days of allegations of the accusation in the so-called Vialidad case. Prosecutor Diego Luciani considered Cristina Kirchner the head of an illicit association that she perpetrated during her two terms as president, between 2007 and 2015, “the greatest corruption maneuver ever known in the country.” The investigation reaches 12 other high officials of Kirchnerism accused of diverting money from public works to enrich themselves. Among the accused are the former Minister of Public Works, Julio de Vido, and the secretary of the portfolio, José López, detained since he was discovered in 2016 red-handed throwing bags with nine million dollars inside a convent. There is also Lázaro Báez, a banker turned builder who, during the governments of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, won eight out of ten road contracts in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of the marriage. The prosecutor considered it proven that the fortune of Báez, today imprisoned for money laundering, grew 12,000% between 2004 and 2015, while he closed private contracts with the Kirchners.

The prosecutor’s challenge is enormous. It must prove that an illicit association had been created in the Kirchner government that had it as its head. He did not find any document with the signature of the former president that linked her to Lázaro Báez. He looked for evidence in another case, the one that led José López, the official with the bags overflowing with dollars, to jail. As Secretary of Public Works, López had maintained private chats in which he made Báez understand that the president, whom he does not name, should approve payments and contracts. Cristina Kirchner took those same chats on Tuesday, reproduced in 9,000 pages, to show that López also often talked about dark business with Nicolás Caputo, a construction businessman very close to Macri. “In the end, the one who feels like a fool is me,” she said, implying that López did business behind her back, both with Báez and with Caputo.

Prosecutor Luciani requested jail against Kirchner, in addition to his perpetual disqualification from holding public office. Kirchernism clung to what it considers an attempt to ban its leader, when there is little more than a year to go before the presidential elections. With one voice, the highest officials of the Government of Alberto Fernández came out to support the leader of the movement. According to the official story, the justice system has plotted with the conservative opposition to ban Kirchner from the 2023 presidential elections. The chancellor, Santiago Cafiero, compared the situation of the vice president with that of other regional leaders who ended up in jail, like the Brazilian Lula da Silva or the Ecuadorian Rafael Correa. Sergio Massa, part of the coalition and current Minister of Economy, said that the accusation of prosecutor Luciani sets a serious precedent, because “it is absurd to suggest that the head of the Administration is responsible for each of his dependents.” Massa opted for a technical defense, after in the past he campaigned for the presidency promising that he would put Kirchner in jail.

During the nine days of reading the allegations of the accusation, the former president tried to remove the prosecutor Luciani and one of the three judges of the court, Rodrigo Giménez Uriburu, from the trial. It was based on a photo released by the press that shows both as regular participants in the soccer tournaments that former president Mauricio Macri organizes in caltrops, your weekend house. It was unsuccessful. He must now wait for the defense attorneys of all the accused to speak. The sentence could be at the end of the year.

The Vialidad cause is the one that most complicates Kirchner. He is not afraid of jail, because in December he will already be 70 years old and, in the worst case, he will be placed under house arrest. She also has privileges as vice president that she can only lose through impeachment. The problem is political. Kirchnerism has very few expectations of victory in next year’s presidential elections. The economic crisis and the internal fights between Fernández and Kirchner have squandered the electoral capital of the ruling Frente de Todos. Kirchner at least has the possibility of a seat in the Senate, but if she is finally barred for life from holding public office, she will be out of the race.

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