A conviction of Cristina Kirchner for corruption with the aroma of ‘lawfare’

An Argentine court has sentenced this Tuesday to the Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to six years in prison and perpetual disqualification from holding public office for a crime of fraudulent administration related to the award of public works during his tenure (2007-2015).

The verdict has been delivered in a atmosphere of maximum political tension in Argentina after the revelation of a scandal that compromises anti-Kirchnerist judges, politicians and businessmen and that impregnates the sentence with a recognizable aroma of lawfare (court war).

The three judges of the Federal Oral Court 2 have ruled out the conviction for illicit association (up to 12 years in prison) that the public prosecutor Diego Luciani had requested without providing evidence of that accusation. The judgment of the so-called Roads case (a complaint that had already been dismissed by a court in the province of Santa Cruz, where the contracts were awarded) will not be immediately applicable because The vice president is qualified and can appeal the ruling before different instances until reaching the Supreme Courta judicial itinerary that is expected to be long, for which reason the progressive leader could present her candidacy for the elections in 2023. His political and personal future in the medium term is, yes, compromised. For Kirchner, the ruling of the judges, “a firing squad”according to his words.

The trial against the vice president lasted three and a half years and also involves other senior officials of the Kirchner government and the businessman Lázaro Báez, beneficiary of dozens of public tenders. Some of them, such as Báez himself, the former Minister of Planning Julio de Vido or the former Secretary of Public Works José López, had already been previously convicted of other corruption crimes. López became famous in Argentina in June 2016 when he was arrested after hiding nine million dollars and a rifle in a cloistered convent with the complicity of nonagenarian nuns..

Until now the numerous lawsuits against Kirchner had been diluted one after another. The vice president, who suffered a failed attack on the door of her house on September 1, has alleged that all the accusations against her are false and has denounced a campaign against her by what she has baptized as the “judicial party”. , a framework of the judiciary that would operate in collusion with the country’s political, business and media right. A recent scandal seems to prove him right.

Several judges, politicians and businessmen made a paid trip by private plane to Bariloche in October to visit the ranch of British magnate Joe Lewis, a friend of former right-wing president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), in Lago Escondido, as revealed by the newspaper Página 12. In the group was Judge Julián Ercolini, instructor of the case against Kirchner, several more magistrates, two senior officials of the government of the City of Buenos Aires (in the hands of Macri’s party) and two directors of Grupo Clarín (the largest Argentine multimedia). This revelation has now been joined by the leak of some compromising chats from the guests of Lewis, owner of a large tract of land in Patagonia.

The impact of that leak, in which Ercolini exchanges messages with his fellow travelers about how to hide the invitation by means of false invoices while the participants mocked the journalists interested in the case, provoked that President Alberto Fernández addressed the country on Monday through a speech on national television to announce that the facts, “a perverse game of bribery”They will be investigated by the courts. The chats, published in two local media (Tiempo Argentino and El Cohete a la Luna), were allegedly leaked by hackers with access to the phone of one of the participants in the trip. Fernández thus illustrated what happens in certain powers in Argentina: “For the first time, the way in which certain corporations operate on officials, judges and prosecutors is exposed before us with enormous forcefulness. seeking favors from them that, in many cases, seek undue advantages, while in others they simply encourage the persecution of those who oppose them”.

The scandal calls into question, once again, the impartiality of some members of the judiciary in Argentina and casts a cloak of suspicion over the prosecution of the vice president, whom a reactionary sector of the country (judicial, political and media) would like to see politically disqualified for life and, if possible, behind bars. For Kirchnerism, it is the verification of a collusion that has been denounced for years. The right, for its part, believes that the disclosure of the scandal is a maneuver by the ruling party to try to minimize the court ruling against Cristina Kirchner.

Lawfare in the region

The lawfare -political persecution through the judiciary- is not new in Latin America. As Kirchner and other progressive leaders in the region have denounced, in recent years it has become the main involutionary tool to overthrow governments or oust leaders of the left. It already happened in Ecuador with Rafael Correa and in Brazil with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The former Brazilian president was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a court that based his verdict on “intimate convictions” for lack of evidence. Judge Sergio Moro, closely linked to the United States (where the doctrine of lawfare), became a celebrity for that sentence against Lula, who was unable to run in the 2018 elections and spent 580 days in jail. The Supreme Court of Brazil would later annul the sentence and politically rehabilitate Lula who will assume his third term on January 1 after putting a stop to the neo-fascist Jair Bolsonaro. Moro would become Minister of Justice in the government of the former Army captain. An investigation of the environment The Inercept he would later reveal the messages in which Moro guided the prosecutor in the case (something prohibited in Brazilian law).

As in other political formations, there have also been cases of corruption in the Latin American left-wing parties. Several leaders of the Brazilian Workers’ Party and Kirchnerism were involved in corruption cases. But the judicial and media persecution against progressive leaders to force political changes in the region is a reality. Broadswords like those of yesteryear in Latin America are no longer needed to overthrow a government. Lawfare has taken over.

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