Argentina awaits VP Cristina Fernández corruption verdict

All eyes in Argentina are on the court where three judges are preparing to announce their verdict in the corruption trial of Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Almudena Calatrava
Tuesday 06 December 2022 16:42 GMT
Argentina Cristina Fernandez Corruption
Argentina Cristina Fernandez Corruption (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

All eyes in Argentina were on federal court on Tuesday, where three judges prepared to announce their verdict in the corruption trial of Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

She’s accused of running a criminal organization and fraudulently directing about $1 billion in public works projects during her presidency to a construction magnate with close ties to her family.

The prosecution asked for 12 years in prison and a lifetime ban from public office if at least two judges vote to convict on both charges. But an appeal is certain no matter the verdict, and meanwhile she'll remain immune from arrest if she wins election to another federal office.

What's also certain: The verdict will further divide the South American nation, where politics can be a blood sport and the 69-year-old populist leader is either loved or hated. Her followers, including some of Argentina's leading trade unions, vowed to paralyze the country if she's found guilty.

Crowds were expected ahead of Tuesday afternoon's verdict, with lines of police prepared to reinforce tall metal barriers outside the federal court in Buenos Aires. Fernández appeared to be awaiting the verdict inside her daughter's apartment, guarded by her security detail.

Lázaro Báez and members of her 2007-2015 presidential administration are among a dozen others accused of joining Fernández in a conspiracy to defraud the state.

Prosecutors said Fernández fraudulently directed 51 public works projects to Báez, a construction magnate and early ally of her and her husband Nestor Kirchner, who served as president from 2003-2007 and died suddenly in 2010.

Pollster Roberto Bacman, who directs Argentina's Center for Public Opinion Studies and supported the campaign of current President Alberto Fernández, said the opposition parties are hoping to campaign calling her a convict, as well as a thief and a whore.

And Cristina Fernández, who last month compared her judges to a “firing squad," is ready to play the victim, characterizing the judiciary as a pawn of right-wing forces including opposition media and Mauricio Macri, who succeeded her as president, Bacman said.

“So we already know how she'll be attacked and also how Kirchnerism will defend her, which is to consider her a victim of “lawfare,” just like Lula (President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) faced in Brazil or what the former president of Ecuador (Rafael Correa) currently faces," Bacman said.

Either way, Bacman expects the verdict to only deepen the fissures in Argentine society, where even as vice president, Cristina Fernández remains the singular leader of the leftist faction of the Peronist movement. Bacman said his surveys show 62% want her removed and 38% support her, no matter what.

Meanwhile, other cases remain pending against her, including a charge of money-laundering that also involves her son and daughter.

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