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Argentina’s vice president could face 12 years in prison

“Rremember that Judges are just judges — they are not God,” Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s president at the time, told her staff in 2012. “You just have to fear God. I have a little too. She reveled in his depravity when a judge she disliked was accused in a Supreme Court case of handing over public works contracts to his family.

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Ten years have passed, and the situation has changed dramatically. On Aug. 22, a federal prosecutor sought a 12-year prison sentence for the current vice president, Ms. Fernandez, and a bar from holding public office. She has been accused of abusing her office during her presidency by handing over inflated public works contracts to a friend (the scheme is believed to have been created by her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, also a former president). started under the leadership of Prosecutors said the state lost about $1 billion. Prosecutor Diego Luciani called it “probably the largest corruption scheme the country has ever seen”.

The central friend of the trial was Lázaro Báez. A bank employee in the remote Patagonian rural province of Santa Cruz, where the Kirchners both began their political careers, Mr. Báez became a construction trader under successive governments. tycoon. From 2003, when Mr. Kirchner took office, to 2015, when Ms. Fernandez stepped down after losing the presidential election, Mr. Baez’s firm won 51 public works contracts in Santa Cruz, accounting for almost 80 percent of the province’s road-related contracts. period. Only 27 were completed; the other 24 were abandoned. Together with Ms. Fernández and Mr. Báez, 11 other persons were indicted.

Ms Fernandez denies all allegations. But this is not the first time she has been investigated. In addition to this investigation, she has been involved in 11 cases involving alleged corruption, bribery or money-laundering, four of which are still pending. But this case is the first to go to trial.

As a result, it irritated her. She recently tried unsuccessfully to have Mr. Luciani and two other judges on the case removed. The day after Mr Luciani’s announcement, she went live on YouTube for an hour and a half, accusing the court and the country’s largest newspaper of behaving like “firing squad”. “They didn’t come for me, they came for workers’ wages and rights,” she claimed.

A verdict in the trial is expected in the coming months. If convicted, Ms Fernandez is likely to appeal. That, and a possible further appeal to the Supreme Court, could be years away. In the meantime, she is free to run in next year’s legislative elections, in which she hopes to keep her current seat in the Senate (Argentine politicians can hold more than one elected office at a time). That, in turn, grants her immunity from Congress. She may be free now, but Ms. Fernández may end up being more feared than God.

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