Argentine Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in her first public appearance after her conviction earlier this month, spoke at the inauguration of the Diego Armando Maradona multi-sport gymnasium in the municipality of Avellaneda, a suburb of Buenos Aires, on Tuesday, December 27. Speaking alongside her main allies within the ruling coalition, the Frente de Todos (Front of All, FdT), Kirchner criticized the press, the economic elite, and the Argentine judiciary for promoting a “parallel state.”
Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison and barred from contesting for life on December 6. The so-called ‘Causa Vialidad’ case against her and 12 others is considered to be another case of political-judicial persecution against progressive leaders in Latin America.
On Tuesday, Kirchner was welcomed by a stadium full of Peronist militants who shouted slogans against her persecution. She was accompanied by the mayor of Avellaneda and her former housing minister, Jorge Ferraresi, and the current governor of Buenos Aires province and former economy minister, Axel Kicillof.
The Diego Armando Maradona multi-sport complex was inaugurated in the Corina slum, about 12 km from the Fiorito slum in the capital’s suburb, where Maradona grew up.
A case of lawfare
Referring to press headlines which referred to her appearance as the first after her ‘resignation’ from politics, Cristina pointed out that it was neither a resignation or self-exclusion but a proscription. After the sentencing in the Causa Vialidad case, she had said she would not run for public office in the 2023 elections.
She once again denounced her trial as a case of lawfare, which seeks to banish her from political life. During her defense and in her speech on December 6, Kirchner had presented at least 20 inaccuracies in her case, and pointed to the lack of evidence and the postponement of the vote on the sentence in the courts so as to time it closer to the next elections.
The current government has opened investigations into messages exchanged between judicial authorities and former ministers of the Mauricio Macri government that suggest the partiality of the judiciary.
The published messages show close ties between directors of Clarín Group, the largest media conglomerate in the country, a Macri administration minister, a former intelligence agent, and four judges, one of whom was responsible for the case that ended with the conviction of the vice-president.
Buenos Aires governor Axel Kicillof summed up the mood of the crowd when he addressed Cristina, “We need you to follow this project of change. To those who threaten you, we say: we are not afraid.”
Argentina has not yet finished celebrating its victory in the Qatar World Cup and the end-of-year festivities but preparations for elections have already begun.
According to the electoral calendar, June 14 is the deadline for the official registration of the parties or fronts that will contest the elections. The final date for for the registration of candidacies for the primaries, called PASO, is June 24.
Governor Kicillof utilized the occasion to talk about the work of his administration and the budget that the previous government had left him. “The province of Buenos Aires lost 7% in budget share in the last years,” he said.
“We can live differently, we can live better through what is public […] Money was not lacking [but there was a lack of interest.] The idea that education is a right was missing,” he said. He also highlighted the achievement of having built twice as many schools as his predecessor, María Eugenia Vidal.
Cristina took the opportunity to launch her proposed coalition campaign slogan for next year. “Argentina and democracy without mafias,” she declared, adding that the country was a victim of a “judicial mafia” that does not respect the Peronist project which was victorious at the polls in 2019.
Avellaneda Mayor Jorge Ferraresi said that Kirchner would ask the FdT to strengthen itself for internal political debates in the coming months. “If Cristina has to be a candidate, she will have to be, because the important thing is that in 2023 the Front of All continues to be in government,” Ferraresi said.
Another controversial issue in Argentine national politics is the federal government’s transfers to the states.
On December 21, the Supreme Court of Justice determined that the national government must transfer 2.95% of the budget funds to the government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. The amount should be levied on the taxes collected by the federal government that have the participation of the provinces, the court ruled.
President Alberto Fernández contested the decision, saying that the financial transfer to the capital city is disproportionate to the other provinces in the country. Last Thursday, Fernández issued a joint statement with 14 other Peronist governors stating that the ruling was “political, contrary to the provinces and impossible to comply with.”
On December 26, the president backtracked and said that he would pay the financial transfer to Buenos Aires in government bonds.
However, the next day, he sent a new document to the Supreme Court asking for the revocation of the verdict and the suspension of the three judges involved in the decision. In the document, signed by him and Treasury Secretary Carlos Zanini, the executive branch claimed that the judiciary had exceeded its duties.
“The sentence affects the general interests of the nation, depriving the National State of resources necessary to be able to maintain essential policies that correct the structural inequalities that exist between Argentine provinces,” the document said.
The capital is governed by Horario Rodríguez Larreta, from the Together for Change coalition of former President Mauricio Macri. Larreta, Macri, and former Security Minister Patricia Bulrrich are the possible presidential candidates of the opposition coalition in the 2023 elections.
At Tuesday’s event, Governor Kicillof also criticized the inequality in the distribution of federal funds, accusing the courts of trying to favor the Macrist right. “We contribute 40% and receive 20% from the federal government,” he said. “There is a serious problem in the distribution of resources.”
Kicillof reiterated Kirchner’s assertion that the judiciary acts in an arbitrary way to favor political elites linked to Macrismo. “What they didn’t win at the polls, they want to approve through the judicial party,” Kirchner had alleged.
The Vice-President also condemned the fact that the court disregarded the budget law approved by the legislature, which supported the distribution of participatory taxes proposed by the current government.
“Believe me, this judicial party is affecting the lives of all Argentinians. It is a parallel state that is defining everyone’s life,” Kirchner charged.
“They are going to give the head of the government of Buenos Aires the necessary increase for his campaign. What [the Supreme Court] proposes to increase the transfer to Buenos Aires represents six years of the annual budget of the municipality of Avellaneda,” she criticized.