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ARGENTINA | 17-03-2020 09:55

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner heads to Cuba, despite coronavirus crisis

67-year-old vice-president leaves Argentina to visit daughter in Havana – ignoring Alberto Fernández's call for all those aged over 65 to remain in self-isolation at home.

President Alberto Fernández may have asked all Argentines over the age of 65 to remain in their homes amid the coronavirus outbreak, but at least one high-profile individual is ignoring those instructions – his own vice-president.

Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, 67, flew off to Havana on Monday to see her daughter, Florencia Kirchner, who is still undergoing medical treatment on the island.

The vice-president – who falls within the age group most at risk from Covid-19 – was authorised to travel to Havana by Federal Oral Court No. 2, which is responsible for a corruption trial in which she is charged with diverting public funds. 

The court's authorities granted the vice-president permission to stay in Cuba until this Sunday, March 22, though it remains to be seen if she will be able to travel back to Argentina on that date given the chaos sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The flight must go through all the relevant protocols laid out in the public health emergency declared by President Fernández, the court ruled.

According to a spokesperson for the government quoted by La Nación, the trip had been planned before the Covid-19 crisis deepened. She travelled on a Cubana de Aviación plane that arrived in Havana midday Monday.

Cuba became the 12th Latin American country to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic after three Italian tourists tested positive last week. A Cuban became the island's fourth confirmed case when he tested positive Thursday.

Hearing delay

On Monday, the courts postponed the latest hearing in a trial involving the former president for a week as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Judges were due to hear testimony from several witnesses including Javier Iguacel, who was in charge of national highway system under ex-president Mauricio Macri. An extended delay in now anticipated, with judicial officials said to be exploring a long-term postponement of all court proceedings.

Fernández de Kirchner's last trip to Cuba was in February, during which she shared the first photograph of herself with her daughter for months on social networks.

Since that date on her daughter, Florencia, has increased her own public profile on social media. After almost a year of silence following her arrival on the Communist-governed island, the filmmaker has now began posting on Instagram, using the platform to promote books, art created by women and to discuss politics.

On Sunday night, the 29-year-old used her account to give her thoughts on global calls for self-quarantine. In a message referencing her own health struggles, she said that over "the last few years I spent more time in a room than talking to people."

She urged Argentines to remain in their homes in the face of the coronavirus emergency, declaring that "the home is one of the great political spaces."

Interesting enough, Fernández de Kirchner is yet to make public comment about the coronavirus outbreak, with her last post on Twitter dating back more than a week.

Speaking Sunday, President Alberto Fernández said that the vice-president was involved in the decision-making process regarding the outbreak and that he had met with her to analyse the situation.

 

"Yesterday [referring to Saturday] we were together from 4pm to 7.30pm, seeing these things," he said in an interview with Radio Mitre.

Corruption allegations

Fernández de Kirchner faces a number of corruption trials, with two of them listing her children, Máximo and Florencia, as defendants.

In the so-called 'Hotesur case,' the family members face money-laundering allegations. The investigation is exploring an alleged corruption ring focused on a public works graft and the fraudulent rental of hotels rooms involving Kirchnerite-linked businessman Lázaro Báez. 

Prosecutors believe the Kirchner-owned Hotesur firm was used to launder money and pay bribes, through a corporate, economic and accounting structure that allowed the parties involved to launder illicit funds.

Fernández de Kirchner alleges her daughter's health has suffered as a result of the "political persecution" she is subject to as the daughter of two former presidents. The former head of state also alleges the charges against the family are part of a broader plot to weaken them politically.

Federal Court No. 5 granted Florencia authorisation to remain in Cuba back in April, initially on a temporary basis, after judges approved her request to undergo medical treatment there for a number of conditions. Those include depression, lymphedema and low body weight, according to her defence team.

Other medical reports shared by her mother on social networks indicate she also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

– TIMES

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