Cristina Kirchner: What a mess is going to be made

A country sinks. Argentina has almost half of its inhabitants below the poverty line, inflation around 8 percent per monthseveral million people surviving on bonuses and handouts, thousands of soup kitchens that can’t cope because hunger is pressing – and there are no ways out. But, for weeks now, it seems that its main problem is that an official, the former president and now vice president Cristina Fernandez, Kirchner’s widow, is accused in a corruption trial that includes several of his former subordinates. It is the feeling that his party wants to give, and that the opposition and most of the media take up again. It serves the opposition to dirty its most fearsome adversary; to the government, to avoid discussing the brutal increases –more than 100%– in many rates of public services, the cuts in health and education, its “adjustment plan” required by the IMF. The current opposition and government are the two sectors that presided over this degradation, that allowed or caused this collapse of a country that could be prosperous or, at least, viable. They are also those who do not propose anything precise to rescue him. But they talk a lot about Ella and her trial.

The trial tries to prove that the enrichment of the Kirchners in the last two decades is the result of a scheme of road works awards with large premiums to a figurehead named Lázaro Báez. The works were not usually finished and the money returned, by mechanisms also known, to the presidential family. The figures, difficult to establish, range between one thousand and two thousand five hundred million euros.

According to surveys, between 70 and 80 percent of Argentines are convinced that Cristina Fernández and her associates committed these crimes. There were, in these years, forceful scenes: the image of his Secretary of Public Works, José López, carrying bags with nine million dollars –and a machine gun– to a nunnery on a dark night; the image of a son of Lázaro Báez weighing bags of dollars in a redoubt they called “La Rosadita” –because the Government House of Buenos Aires is called “La Rosada”.

But crimes are not decided by a democratic majority. Justice, in order to advance, must prove them: that is what the current trial intends. Kirchnerist Peronism, without technical arguments, resorts to a political one: that this is pure “lawfare”, the word that has become fashionable in our countries to talk about the political use of justice. Lawfare would consist of using the courts to attack the adversary. In general, governments would do it against the opposition; in Argentina and Spain, since everything should be more twisted, the opposition would use it against members of the government.

That is why Kirchnerist Peronism does not accept the accusations. Its president said yesterday, among other things, that “what certain judges do disgusts him.” And a few days ago, in a long speech by Youtube, Cristina Fernández explained that the prosecutors accused her because they were children or grandchildren of soldiers, for example. And that, as she has been saying for a long time, “history has already acquitted me.” Peronism in government rejects –a priori– the decisions of justice: the country’s basic institutions. And he prefers to influence the trial by taking people –not many– to the streets. This is how the modest demonstrations were set up in front of Fernández’s apartment in the most elegant neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Her slogans are clear: “If they touch Cristina / what a mess is going to be made”. In other words: if justice condemns her, we break everything. A state that does not trust its own institutions need not expect its citizens to do so.

They were ten days of bullfights, shouting and fireworks. The neighbors complained, the city police –macrista– tried to dissolve it, there were fights, they had to back down. In that uncontrolled space, a deranged man wanted to fire a pistol at the vice president, who was walking without guard. Fortunately, he didn’t get it, he’s in prison, he won’t be out for a long time. That armed violence is added to the small daily violence that Argentina practices too much is a horrible novelty –although everything seems to indicate that this is an isolated case, the madness of a fool.

(There is, behind all this, a horror story: to think what would have happened if that bullet had been fired. I imagine a country plunged into a never-ending fight. In this case, chance and the stupidity of the aggressor were merciful.)

But, beyond the general relief, the episode will be used. The strategy of Cristina Fernández and her people has been, for years, victimization: the bad guys fear us, hate us, attack us, that shows that we do good things. Last night’s infamy will be the icing on that cake: they no longer only attack us with laws, now also with weapons, we must defend ourselves.

Or, at least, it will keep the figure of Fernández at the center of a sterile debate: that crack that has been ruining the country for twenty years. I hope that Argentina is reasonable enough not to fall into this trap as well. Given his recent history, I doubt it and I’m worried. For now me and everyone else are still writing about this. The millions of Argentines who do not know how they will eat tomorrow, meanwhile, still do not know. That violence persists, and we can only hope that it does not, in turn, awaken other violence: it happens – we know – from time to time.

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