The corruption case against Argentina’s VP Kirchner, explained | Corruption News

Buenos Aires, Argentina – One of the most polarizing figures in Argentina that attacked this week is corruption The trial against her enters the next phase.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchnerthe country’s current president and vice president, has denied the “media judicial firing squad” she said wrote her sentence on charges she led an illegal plot to extract state funds through the awarding of public works contracts to a family friend.

On Monday, the lead prosecutor in the case asked a federal court in Buenos Aires to sentence Fernandez de Kirchner 12 years in prison and ban her from holding public office for the rest of her life. She has denied the allegations and said she was a victim of judicial and political persecution.

“I have said this before. They didn’t come for me. They’re coming for you all,” the 69-year-old told supporters at the end of a 90-minute speech on Tuesday that was broadcast on her YouTube channel and televised by the media. “For the wages, for the benefit of the workers, for the retirees, for our indebtedness – that’s what they’re after.”

Here, Al Jazeera looks at the incident, public reaction in Argentina, and potential political ramifications for the South American country:

What exactly is she accused of?

Fernandez de Kirchner is one of 13 people charged in the so-called “Causa Vialidad,” the center for the awarding of public works contracts in the Santa Cruz province of Patagonia, where she and her late husband, Former President Nestor Kirchner, consolidated his political career.

She was charged with “illegal association that aggravated her leadership qualities” and “aggravated administrative fraud”.

When is this supposed to happen?

The case focuses on a 12-year period, beginning in the early 2000s, during which 51 contracts were awarded to companies owned by Lazaro Baez, an entrepreneur who is a friend and associate of Kirchners. Baez, who was found guilty of money laundering last year, had moved from working as a banker to starting a construction company in the days before Nestor Kirchner took office in 2003.

However, the prosecution argued that this construction company was created only as a shell company to get money from the state. According to the prosecution, nearly 80 percent of public works contracts in Santa Cruz between 2003 and 2015 went to Baez, often at sky-high prices or with other special considerations. Of the 51 contracts, 24 were never completed, it added.

People protest against VP Kirchner of Argentina
People protest against Fernandez de Kirchner outside her home in Buenos Aires this month [Magali Druscovich/Reuters]

What did her legal team say?

The defense has denied the charges. They say the premise of the charges against Fernandez de Kirchner is absurd, noting in particular that public works contracts must pass through Congress, so any accusations of illegal affiliation, they argued, would then have to go to that legislature.

But prosecutor Diego Luciani claimed that nearly a third of the contracts skipped that process and that those contracts contained inaccurate information. Left-wing Fernandez de Kirchner served two terms as president, from 2007 to 2015, following her husband’s four-year term.

“When Nestor Kirchner took over as president of the nation, and then his wife… they installed and perpetuated in the provincial and national government of Santa Cruz, one of many unusual corruption mats. the most that ever existed in the country,” Luciani said in the nine days to the end of this month, estimating that the alleged “criminal fraudster” cost the state $926 million.

What does Fernandez de Kirchner have to say?

Much. Denied the opportunity to speak in court on Tuesday, the vice president in her 90-minute response shared on YouTube denounced a “fictitious” incident she said was caused by an enemy. Her politics is designed to discredit her and bring others into submission.

“Nothing the prosecutors said was proven,” she said. “They are not accusations; it’s a scenario and pretty bad at that. “

Displaying articles written by La Nacion and Clarin, two major Argentine media outlets that she describes as “strengths of the law,” Fernandez sought to show the “script” that had been written by the media. how. She focused on court documents and WhatsApp conversations between one of her co-defendants, Jose Lopez – a former secretary in charge of public agencies in both Kirchner governments who had arrested in 2016 trying to hide five bags containing $9 million and a semi-automatic rifle in a convent – and Nicolas Caputo, a construction company owner and confidant of former President Mauricio Macri, her successor.

“When prosecutor Diego Luciani said, ‘Wherever you press, pus comes out,’ he was right. It’s your latex, the Macristas’ latex,” she said. “It’s not just about shaming and confusing people, it’s about protecting those who are actually robbing the country.”

Supporters of the Vice President of Argentina
Supporters of the vice president gather outside the National Convention on August 23 [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

How does the public in Argentina feel about the incident?

Like all things related to the vice president, the Argentine public is divided on the issue. On Monday, after the prosecution completed closing arguments, supporters and detractors faced off outside Fernandez de Kirchner’s home in the posh Buenos Aires neighborhood of Recoleta.

On one side, people hung banners accusing her of being a “thief” and smashing pots and pans, while on the other, her supporters sang political hymns and jumped up and down in passionate support. Police used tear gas and batons to disperse Fernandez de Kichner’s supporters, in what her allies denounced as an act of excessive violence. A lawmaker from the ruling Frente de Todos coalition was briefly arrested.

Oscar Sanchez, a 60-year-old taxi driver, said he and much of the country were most prosperous during the Kirchner years and the court case targeted an economic model. “I don’t trust the media or the justice system, it’s the most corrupt system here,” he told Al Jazeera. But Maria, a retired radiologist, rages at the vice president, who she accuses of stealing money. Maria said: “I think the case against her is real.

Supporters gathered outside the National Congress on Tuesday and Fernandez de Kirchner stepped out onto the balcony and sang hymns with them.

What are the next legal steps and how long might this take?

The trial has lasted three years, but there is still a way to go. Next, each of the 13 defendants will have the opportunity to speak at the end of the trial. Each family is allocated three sessions for those closing remarks, and these sessions will begin in September.

Local media are reporting that the three-judge panel could issue a ruling as early as December, or possibly until next March.

Once that decision is made, the parties have the right to appeal, first to the Camera de Casacion Penalty and finally to the Supreme Court. That potential final hearing in Argentina’s highest court could take place as late as 2025.

Will Fernandez de Kirchner be allowed to continue in office?

The legal process does not impede the vice president’s ability to hold public office, and will not prevent her from running in next year’s national election if she chooses. That’s because even if she’s found guilty by Oral Federal Court 2, the sentence must be “sure” — meaning all avenues of appeal must be exhausted — and it must be accompanied by a prison sentence first. when it might affect her ability to find public office. .

But a guilty verdict is sure to send shockwaves across the country. All of her allies, including President Alberto Fernandez, came out this week denouncing the incident as a crackdown by the judiciary and the media.

“Apart from the lack of evidence that the prosecutor demonstrated, the problem is that he started from the premise that she, as president, could not have known what was going on,” the president said. “All of the crimes she’s accused of are crimes that require intent, wanting to do it.”

Some leftist leaders in the region also support her, while her opponents accuse her of delaying tactics. “Instead of defending herself against the accusations, she’s talking about something completely different,” Patricia Bullrich, leader of the opposition PRO party, told the media. “The court will decide whether what the prosecutor has said is sufficient.”

There are currently five active cases against Fernandez de Kirchner involving other allegations of corruption, and irregular use and disbursement of state resources. She was acquitted or the court dismissed several other charges.

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