Argentine gov’t: Courts determined to block Cristina Fernandez candidacy
Buenos Aires, Feb 16 (EFE).- Argentina’s government said Thursday that Vice President Cristina Fernandez is a victim of judicial persecution aimed at preventing her from launching a new bid this year for her nation’s highest office.
The corruption conviction handed down against the leftist politician late last year was an “attempt to disqualify her, which isn’t a done deal yet but could be at any moment, and which in an election year is a tool the judiciary can use at any time,” presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti said at a press conference.
One of 13 defendants accused in connection with public works contracts awarded during her 2007-2015 presidency and the 2003-2007 administration of her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez was convicted of fraudulent administration of public funds in December, sentenced to six years in prison and barred from ever holding public office again.
The vice president, who will turn 70 on Sunday, responded to that verdict the same day by blasting what she called a “parallel state and judicial mafia.”
Although she has lodged an appeal and currently enjoys immunity from arrest as vice president, she seemed resigned to not being able to run for office in the 2023 general election.
“I will not be a candidate for anything, I will no longer have privileges. My name is not going to be on any ballot,” she said then.
Cerruti said Thursday that President Alberto Fernandez, who is not related to the vice president, “understands that there’s a judicial persecution against” the former head of state and that “she has nothing to do with all that she’s been accused of in that case.”
More than 40 Argentine human rights organizations also have condemned Fernandez’s conviction.
“Democracy is at risk in the country, but it is at risk in the entire continent,” 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel said during a press conference late last year at the former Naval Mechanics School in Buenos Aires, now the site of a museum honoring the tens of thousands killed, tortured or unjustly imprisoned by the 1976-1983 military regime.
Members of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group founded by the families of those who were “disappeared” by the junta, read from a manifesto critical of the judicial process against Fernandez.
“This political tribunal seeks, via a conviction without evidence, to ban for the life the principal political leader of our country, with a verdict that constitutes a clear demonstration that ‘lawfare’ exists in our country,” the text says.
And they pointed to “coincidences” between the Fernandez case and the legal travails of current Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who spent nearly two years in prison after being convicted of bribe-taking based on the uncorroborated account of a witness who testified under a plea bargain.
With Lula, a popular former two-term president, behind bars, rightist Jair Bolsonaro won the 2018 election.
Revelations of misconduct by the judge and prosecutors led to the overturning of the conviction and allowed Lula to run – and defeat Bolsonaro – in last October’s presidential balloting. EFE