Argentina - CFK under fire for corruption allegations
Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner could face 12 years in prison and a lifetime ban from public office if corruption charges hold.
A prosecutor in Argentina has requested a twelve year prison sentence and a lifetime ban on holding public office for Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
These charges relate to corruption that occurred when Kirchner was president. Her administration allegedly directed construction contracts to businesses that were friendly to the government, including businesses owned by Lazaro Baez, a prominent businessman and Kirchner ally. Those businesses then sent money back to the Kirchner family through various businesses that the ruling family owned in southern Argentina.
As one example, a hotel owned by the Kirchners regularly reported being completely full every night despite witnesses saying hardly anyone was staying at the hotel. It turns out that Kirchner-friendly business owners, including Baez, were renting all the empty rooms as a way of diverting money to the presidential family. Kirchner has already faced trial on over a dozen charges of corruption, bribery, and money laundering, although she has been acquitted of several of those charges.
Kirchner is treating this situation as a political and media battle rather than a legal case. Attacking the prosecutors and judiciary as political actors attempting to influence the country in favor of Macri and other political opponents, Kirchner believes that politicizing the case will cast enough doubt that she may be able to negotiate her way out of prison and maintain her political power. Argentina’s judiciary has long been subject to the country’s political and economic whims, and as judicial officials face little to no accountability, the exertion of political influence over judicial matters is commonplace. Kirchner, in particular, both while in office and in her current role as vice president, has pushed to expand executive control over the country’s judicial branch, causing an additional political and partisan rift in government Given that Kirchner is probably guilty of the charges and doesn’t have much legal defense, going the political route is probably a smart move.
President Alberto Fernandez (no family relation to the Vice President, in case you’ve forgotten), posted his support for Kirchner on social media. In spite of the recent divisions between the president and Vice President, Fernandez knows that he needs his vice president if he hopes to win the elections next year. Recent polling shows that Peronist voters support Cristina the most out of the other prominent figures in the bloc. As tempting as it might be given that Kirchner has helped organize protests against the president’s economic policies, this isn’t the right moment for the president to turn on her and try to push her out the door.
Still, even if it’s likely that Kirchner dodges jail time or other punishments in the ongoing legal case, the continued controversy and focus on past corruption allegations harms her influence on economic policy and moving forward with the upcoming elections. Argentine politics is crazy enough that she may try running for president to dodge the allegations. However, the more likely scenario is that these corruption allegations force her to find new allies to represent her in the spotlight in the coming year so she can drift to a role that is more behind the scenes.
Ultimately, investigating and prosecuting corruption would be good for Argentina, even if it causes a bit of political turmoil in the short term.