Opinion – Latinoamérica21: Cristina Kirchner’s sentence opens a new chapter in Argentine politics

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Cristina Kirchner was sentenced to 6 years in prison and perpetually disqualified from holding public office for the crime of fraudulent administration to the detriment of public administration, in the so-called “Causa Vialidad”.

In the judicial process, initiated almost four years ago, it was decided that, from 2009 to 2015, the presidencies of Cristina Kirchner fraudulently allocated exorbitant amounts of money for public road works to a company linked to the Kirchner family. This company –Austral Construcciones– was created during the presidency of Néstor Kirchner and in charge of a former employee of the bank –Lázaro Báez– with no previous experience in the area. Along with Cristina, Lázaro Báez and other people related to these events were convicted.

In October, the Public Prosecutor’s Office asked the vice president to serve a sentence of 12 years in prison for the crime of leading an illegal association to the detriment of the State. Although the defense had time to refute the accusations, many in the media argued that the strategy consisted more of denouncing political persecution, lawfare style, to prove the falsehood of the accusation.

The conclusion of this process was the reading of the verdict by a federal court composed of three judges, two of which rejected the charge of illicit association and based the conviction on fraudulent administration. The third judge, who defended the illicit association, approved the decision in dissent.

After the verdict was read, Cristina Kirchner addressed the public via social media, claiming again that the sentence is the product of political persecution of her, similar to the political persecution of other popular leaders in Latin America in recent years. The vice-president stressed that the “persecution” goes against the defense of popular interests that these leaders have embodied in the last two decades in the region. Cristina also stated that these attacks will be structured in de facto powers articulated between judicial sectors, economic corporations, right-wing parties and the interference of North American political sectors.

The vice president, her political sector and her allies had been maintaining for some time, as the end of the trial and the promulgation of the sentence approached, that everything was a forged case, of persecution, of the same anti-popular powers in Argentina. And therefore, the condemnation was inevitable, but given the mentioned context, illegitimate and politically perverse.

Meanwhile, for the political opposition, business and communication sectors, left-wing groups and organizations and part of civil society, the trial and its possible condemnation is nothing more than the final evidence of a matrix of corruption that crossed the three “Kirchnerist” presidencies ” (the first by Néstor Kirchner, the other two by Cristina).

Four fundamental aspects emerge from the decision. First, Cristina’s prison sentence is not effective at the moment. In addition to the continuity of judicial instances, the vice president is, according to the Argentine Constitution, president of the National Senate and, therefore, has parliamentary immunity. Similarly, disqualification from holding public office will not be sustained given the predictable judicial instances (courts of appeal, Supreme Court) that can last for years.

On the other hand, the “Vialidad” case, whose first instance has been closed, is tied to two other cases –”Hotesur” and “Los Sauces”– which, according to the prosecution, involved money laundering through renting properties belonging to the Kirchner family. , arising from “returns” of the substantial funds obtained from the public works concessions to Austral Construcciones. Both of Cristina’s sons are implicated in these two cases, as they were part of the family’s business associations.

In the days leading up to the decision, the political structure of Kirchnerism and its allies warned that if the vice president were convicted, there would be political and social outbreaks, including popular demonstrations, occupation of judicial headquarters and marches to the federal courts. He also pointed to the “paralysis of the State and the administration” by the action of state workers. The truth is, so far, none of that has happened.

In her speech on the networks after the decision, Cristina announced that she will never be a candidate for anything again, in line with what has been mentioned and hinted at in recent months about her presidential candidacy for the October 2023 elections. , the decision opens an uncertain political panorama in Argentina.

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