On the weekend prior to Monday, August 1, the IT team at Argentina’s Senate worked to make sure everything was ready: when Cristina Fernández de Kirchner arrived at her office, she would be able to connect to the first hearing without any problems.
From her office, connected via Zoom, Argentina’s vice-president listened to the allegations against her delivered by Prosecutor Diego Luciani in the court case known as ‘Vialidad.’ That same day, she continued with a political agenda and received Sergio Massa, the man who two days later would take office as economy minister.
That was the only day of the eight that she connected, preferring to follow the rest of the accusations through her lawyers. As she later commented publicly, Fernández de Kirchner is convinced that the sentence has already been written. In private, she concentrates on how to win the case against her on the streets and at the ballot box. There are always rumours, but Fernández de Kirchner remains active in her administration and is once again trying to make Frente de Todos a viable option – with possibilities – in 2023.
The vice-president’s lawyer Carlos Beraldi asked for permission for Fernández de Kirchner to be absent during the trial and she did exactly after the first hearing.
Even Beraldi doesn’t follow what he describes as the “justice media show” broadcast on Youtube with the tablet he carries everywhere. In the lawyer’s office there is no desktop computer or notebook. He prefers printed paper, his tablet and mobile phone.
On Monday, when the prosecution closes its arguments, they will finish with a request for a prison sentence. Fernández de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015, stands accused of leading an illicit association with the aim of directing public works in favour of Lázaro Báez.
Although this moment will be broadcast on all TV channels, Argentina’s vice-president will also likely be in the Senate. Unlike most of the political offices in the congressional building, there are no televisions in the vice-president's office either.
Over the past few weeks, CFK has made it clear that her public agenda is focused against the Judiciary. Her presentations that criticise Alberto Fernández's economic management have been left behind and today she has no scheduled appearances. She will raise her voice again, but against the justice system and via social networks.
In private, however, the vice-president is active in economic management. She has spoken with Massa several times on the phone and with various other governors. She wants the Tigre leader to do well and thinks that a triumph at the ballot box is still possible next year, despite the claims of those who insist she believes 2023 is lost.
The vice-president insists that the judges and prosecutors that make accusations against her are impartial. The photos that show them to be teammates in the same football team for years are, for the defence, an example of their longstanding friendship and links with the Macrismo, not only for playing at Los Abrojos, but also for holding hearings with former officials. On the streets, the militants have already come out to paint: "Macrist judges", they write on walls, warning them: "You can't fuck with Cristina."
Last Thursday, her backers held a “Federal Day of Debate for Democracy and the Rule of Law.” At the offices of the Kirchnerite youth group, La Cámpora, across the country, youngsters debated a document entitled: "Lawfare, once again."
"The allegations of the prosecutor Diego Luciani, in the case popularly known as ‘Vialidad,’ respond to electoral times and seek to pave the way for 2023. They talk to the camera for days and hours, with no grounds [for their claims] and dismissing previous expert reports; with the movements of judges and prosecutors drawn 'a la carte' according to the convenience of the concentrated power and whoever plays on the same team: not only in football, but also in the Judicial Party," read one part of the document.
For now, there has been no formal call to march, but Kirchnerismo is ready to mobilise for "La Jefa." Cristina Fernández de Kirchner already demonstrated her power of convocation in 2016 when she had to appear in Comodoro Py federal courthouse for the first time in ‘Future Dollars’ (Dólar Futuro) case. "There are many citizens who want Cristina to be a candidate, what do you think could happen if the courts decide to take away that possibility?,” warns one La Cámpora leader.
Cristina will be a candidate in 2023. No-one in her entourage can say whether she will be on the presidential ballot or on the one ballot for Buenos Aires Province. Those closest to her assure that this will not depend on whether she loses her immunity privileges or not. They say that she is not afraid of a ruling against him and that her place in 2023 will depend on what he believes is necessary to win, as was the case in 2019.
The Supreme Court will be the last court to define her procedural situation in the event of a conviction, and that is where the vice-president has been aiming her criticism for years.
"It was not enough for them to imprison José López, Amado Boudou or Carlos Zannini to stay in power,” said one Senate source close to Fernández de Kirchner. “They need Cristina convicted and to show a symbol of corruption to win the elections.”