Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner lashed out Thursday at a judge's order seeking her arrest as “an excess that violates the rule of law.”
Judge Claudio Bonadio ordered her arrest and called on the Senate to strip her of her parliamentary immunity for allegedly covering up Iranian involvement in a deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
“This was about an act of foreign policy”, Fernández de Kirchner said during an afternoon press conference in Buenos Aires, in which she downplayed the seriousness of the legal situation she and her former colleagues now face.
The senator for Buenos Aires province said that the charges against her for treason were based on “facts that were never found, never took place, and never existed”.
“This is an excess that violates the rule of law. (The national government) is trying to cause personal and political damage to its opponents. This isn’t democracy”.
On an explosive morning for Argentine politics, a number of key Kirchnerite figures found themselves waking up to the prospect of immediate detention or house arrest, among them former foreign minister Hector Timerman and ex-vice-presidential nominee Carlos Zannini.
During her presentation to the media, Fernández de Kirchner dismissed Bonadio’s legal justification for the accusations, claiming that he was only able to move against her after declaring that the 1992 and 1994 terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires were “acts of war”.
“Treason can only be produced when our country is at war. So he has assimilated the two attacks as acts of war”, she explained.
The former president also took aim at President Mauricio Macri, saying: “We are led to believe that the manoeuvres used to persecute the opposition are continuing to be employed" by the members of the national government.
“Harassment and humiliation violate the rule of law and democracy, and degrade our justice system. This shows how Macri is the man truly responsible for the legal and political manoeuvres behind the persecution of the opposition”.
She pointed to the large presence of cameras and journalists at the 2.30am arrest of Carlos Zannini in Rio Gallegos as proof that the government is using the case against her to mount a media circus.
“Look how on social media the labour reform bill and the looting of pensioners' incomes, the increases to services and prices, they were all gaining attention. Now they’ve been buried by this”.
At Government House, ministers were urged by Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña to remain “cautious”. Sources told the Perfil newspaper that the message circulating within the Pink House was simple: “The idea is to maintain an institutional message”.
Bonadio’s decision yesterday received an outpouring of rejection and dismay, even among Fernández de Kirchner’s political opponents.
Her former Transport minister Florencio Randazzo, whose departure from Kirchnerite ranks likely cost the former president a majority in the October mid-terms, called the move “absurd”.
At yesterday's press conference, Fernández de Kirchner thanked the non-Peronist left and other opposition lawmakers for their support in having rejected the judge's latest move.
Historically a controversial judge, Bonadio made his decision as part of the investigation into late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s accusation that former government officials sought to cover up Iran's alleged involvement in Argentina's worst terrorist attack at the AMIA Jewish community centre through the controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), a pact with Iran agreed in 2012 during the time Fernández de Kircher’s administration ruled the nation.
The former president and senator for Buenos Aires province has repeatedly denied the allegations and says that President Mauricio Macri is politically manipulating the judge who ordered her to appear in court as part of the case.
“It is a great legal nonsense,” Fernández de Kircher said in October regarding the case. “I think the most important thing I have to say is that the only betrayal of the country is the use of the judiciary to persecute opponents”.
According to judicial sources, in his ruling Bonadio reasoned that the former president may use her contacts to “obstruct the case.”
Fernández de Kirchner currently has parliamentary immunity after being elected as a senator in the last elections in October. Now, the order of impeachment will be analysed by the Senate. Any decision must be endorsed by two-thirds of those present.
Miguel Angel Pichetto, a former ally and prominent Peronist senator, on Thursday said he would vote against any moves to strip CFK of her immunity, which suggests that there is some hope for the former president who also faces a number of charges of corruption.