Argentina's Fernandez Defiant in Face of String of Law Cases

ARGENTINA-POLITICS-JUSTICE-KIRCHNER

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner waves to supporters in Buenos Aires, on April 11, 2016.

Photographer: Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images
  • Fernandez appears for first time since relinquishing power
  • She faces a string of judicial cases about alleged corruption

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner accused judges of conspiring with the country’s new government to seek her imprisonment on Wednesday after testifying about alleged irregularities in the dollar market during her administration.

QuickTake Argentina

“They can call me in 20 times, they can put me in prison, but they will never shut me up,” Fernandez told thousands of flag-waving supporters outside the courts. Many in the crowd had camped overnight to see her first major appearance in Buenos Aires since leaving office in December.

Fernandez, whose favored candidate was defeated in a closely-fought runoff vote after she governed the country for eight years, has been called to testify after trading in dollar futures led to losses of almost $4 billion for the central bank. In a written statement she handed in Wednesday, she described the accusations as “absurd” and “bordering on the ridiculous” and accused the judge in charge of incompetence.

It’s the first of a string of cases involving money-laundering and corruption allegations that Fernandez is likely to face as the judicial system investigates her and former members of her administration. The legal cases will make it difficult for her to impose herself as the leader of a united Peronist opposition to President Mauricio Macri, said Alejandro Catterberg, director of polling firm Poliarquia.

“I don’t know if she’ll end up in prison, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cristina will have to spend many, many years answering questions in legal cases, as has happened with other ex-presidents of this country,” Catterberg said by phone from Buenos Aires on Tuesday. “It’s going to cause her to lose even more popularity and creates more incentives for traditional Peronism to go elsewhere.”

Persecution Record

Fernandez faces allegations that under her watch the central bank sold dollar futures at artificially low rates during the presidential elections knowing that the new administration would devalue the peso. The bank, headed at the time by Alejandro Vanoli, sold $17 billion of futures contracts between September and November, according to a Feb. 26 order issued by Judge Claudio Bonadio.

Opting to hand in a 3,000-word statement rather than speak in the court, Fernandez compared herself to luminaries such as former President Hipolito Yrigoyen and ex-President Juan Domingo Peron who she said had suffered similar persecution once they left power. As for the accusations of irregularities in the futures market, she blamed the losses on Macri’s government for devaluing the currency.

One of Macri’s first measures after assuming office on Dec. 10 was to lift currency controls and let the peso float, causing a devaluation of about 30 percent.

A prosecutor also said on Sunday that there are grounds to investigate about her alleged involvement in a money laundering ring with a construction contractor who worked on her hotel projects in Patagonia, Clarin reported.

The allegations against Fernandez come at a time when Macri also faces an investigation about several offshore companies connected to his father’s construction conglomerate revealed in the so-called Panama papers. Macri said he was never a shareholder in Fleg Trading Ltd, a company registered in Panama that listed him as a director. On Tuesday, he said he’d only recently heard of the existence of another, Metro Consulting PTY, that is linked to his father’s holding company.

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