The political and economic crisis that Argentina has been suffering for many years has been revived these days with the scandal of the six-year prison sentence and lifetime disqualification of the vice-president, ex-president and wife of the president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The news, announced yesterday by federal judge Julián Ercolini, has triggered a double reaction: enthusiasm among the opposition and violent protests that are feared to increase in the coming days by Peronism, which unites its capacity for reaction in the same way that it stages its differences among its frequent divisions.
The image of corruption shared by the Kirchner couple, from the early days of her husband Néstor's presidency, was widely commented on among Argentines, which was no obstacle to their staying in power for more than a decade, first as president, then as president and currently as vice-president, always with broad popular support in elections that, by the way, have been held by a large majority of the population, Incidentally, as far as the wing of Peronism they represent was concerned, they were at the centre of frequent causes for discord among other branches of the curious and enduring political legacy of General Perón, the dictator who ruled in the 1940s and left behind philo-fascist political principles that remain a utopian social memory in the political atmosphere.
The Kirchner family's rate of enrichment never stopped growing since they came to power and the details and names involved in the corruption they headed were well known and the subject of denunciations by the press, often the victim of threats and coercive measures, as well as by the street itself. The conviction of the vice-president goes hand in hand with that of one of her best-known accomplices, the businessman Lázaro Báez, who was awarded major public works contracts. One example is what happened in the province of Santa Cruz, where Báez won fifty-one contracts, of which he fulfilled twenty-seven and left the rest unfinished after he had been paid. It is estimated that his profits in recent years exceeded 80 billion dollars.
As soon as the news broke, the vice-president, known for her fickle, authoritarian and irascible character, reacted with one of her angry outbursts, accused the judges of being a mafia, and aggrandised herself by contemptuously announcing that she would never again run for public office, an unnecessary promise considering that the conviction disqualifies her from attempting to do so. The President of the Republic, Alberto Fernández, who had been Cristina's chief of staff during her presidency and whom she had encouraged to run for the presidency, leaving her in the background - although they immediately came into conflict - immediately came to her defence, accusing the judges of having condemned an innocent woman whom "the powers that be" had persecuted through the media and compliant judges.