Argentina’s Vice President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (“Cristina”), survived an assassination attempt last week after a Brazilian man pointed a loaded gun at her head which failed to fire. Beyond the attack, Cristina remains a deeply polarising figure in Argentina and is facing many legal cases of corruption.
Tensions had been building in recent days after Prosecutor Luciani requested a sentence of 12 years in prison, disqualification from holding public office in the future and asset forfeiture of up to $1 billion for alleged corruption by Cristina. Following the request, left-wing militants came out to show their support for Cristina outside her upmarket apartment in Buenos Aires. The attack came as Cristina tried to make her way through these crowds from her car to her apartment.
Cristina is currently facing trial accused of leading an illegal scheme that diverted state funds by awarding public works contracts during her Presidency to a family friend in her home province of Santa Cruz in Patagonia.
A lawyer and political analyst in Buenos Aires commented, “Cristina is facing many legal cases alleging corruption around public works during her time as President. In the most advanced case, arguments are to be finalised by the end of October with the sentence known before the end of the year. This will undoubtedly be appealed and the case will go to the Supreme Court of Justice where it will take 5 – 10 years to reach a conclusion. By this point, Cristina will surely avoid jail as in Argentina people over 70 do not go to common jail, they are placed under house arrest.”
“Cristina is facing many legal cases alleging corruption around public works during her time as President.”
Lawyer and political analyst, Buenos Aires
Having already faced investigations of financial fraud and bribery in the past, Cristina said that the accusations were politically motivated and that she was a victim of a smear campaign. Hundreds of supporters gathered for days in front of her home in Buenos Aires, increasing tension in an already socially divided and economically struggling country.
Meanwhile, the trial for the ‘Vialidad’ case for which Cristina is being prosecuted is still ongoing after three years. Closing remarks will continue in three sessions that will start this week, but defendants can appeal the ruling to the Criminal Appeals Court, potentially extending the final ruling until 2025.
Cristina can only be removed from public office if she is given a prison sentence and once this conviction is considered firm and all the appeals have been exhausted. Cristina’s defence has submitted numerous appeals alleging a lack of evidence in order to delay the trial. In the meantime, she is also under investigation in five continuing judicial cases for corruption, mismanagement of state resources and embezzlement of public funds.
“What ultimately happens to Cristina may not be the most important thing for the elections. What matters is everything that happens in the middle.”
Former political analyst and journalist, Argentina
With elections looming, is Cristina’s fate likely to have a political impact? A former political analyst and journalist didn’t think so, “What ultimately happens to Cristina may not be the most important thing for the elections. What matters is everything that happens in the middle: how do the candidates respond in relation to the militancy, in relation to the governors etc. Cristina is unlikely to present herself as a candidate for President but I believe she will seek some position in the National Congress to benefit from some kind of immunity.”