Cristina Fernández de Kirchner delivered a fiery lecture at a university in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday, denouncing “judicial coups” in Latin America and hailing her left-wing “comrades” across the continent.
Speaking during her visit to the country for Honduras President-elect Xiomara Castro’s inauguration, Argentina’s vice-president let rip at “neoliberals” as she addressed an invited audience at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma in the capital, delivering a speech at an event entitled ‘Los pueblos siempre vuelven’ (“The people always come back”).
Fernández de Kirchner fiercely criticised the actions of the Organisation of American States in the region, and implicitly the United States, as she lambasted “neoliberal austerity policies" and defended the role of the state in government.
Her remarks were also a nod to Argentina’s ongoing attempt to restructure its US$44-billion debt with the International Monetary Fund.
The government of President Alberto Fernández is seeking a new financing deal that will allow it extend repayment terms, though talks are currently stalled, with both sides disagreeing about the size of the country’s fiscal deficit in the years to come.
Latin American left
Fernández de Kirchner was joined in Tegucigalpa by what she described as a host of "her dear comrades" – left-wing leaders from Latin American who attended Castro’s swearing-in as the first woman president of Honduras.
Castro, 62, took the oath at a massive ceremony attended by international dignitaries after an embarrassing week of infighting in her Libre party that challenged her authority.
Among those present were former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Fernando Lugo (Paraguay). The president-elect of Chile, Gabriel Boric, and US Vice-President Kamala Harris were also in attendance.
Taking the oath of office, Castro vowed to reform crime- and poverty-stricken Honduras into a "socialist and democratic state." In her first official address at the Tegucigalpa National Stadium, Castro denounced "the social and economic tragedy confronting Honduras" and promised to make work of improving education, healthcare, security and employment.
She said she was inheriting a "bankrupt" country which she intended to reshape into a "socialist and democratic state." Honduras' public debt is about US$17 billion.
Fernández de Kirchner, who led Argentina from 2007 to 2015, heaped praise on her host, who she has known since 2009 when Manuel Zelaya, Castro’s husband, was removed from office in a coup d'état.
At that time, the Argentine leader attempted unsuccessfully with other leaders in the region to stop Zelaya's removal from office. even attempting to land at Tegucigalpa airport, but the military who had staged the coup blocked the runway and the plane had to turn back.
Addressing the challenges that lie ahead for Castro, Fernández de Kirchner warned the Honduran leader that governing her country would be “very difficult.” She called on the country to “help her a lot because she has a doubly difficult task ahead of her as a woman," stressing that onlookers will “forgive her much less than men" due to “a certain resentment from patriarchal society.”
Nevertheless, the vice-president said that she is “absolutely convinced" that Castro is “going to come out ahead" and lead Honduras into a bright future.
Framing Castro’s election win as a return to power similar to that of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party in Bolivia under the leadership of President Luis Arce, after a civic and military coup overthrew Evo Morales in November 2019, Fernández de Kirchner said that “the people always come back and they never do it in the same way or with the same leaders," she said. "The names and the protagonists change but the objective is the same as always: the self-determination of the people."
The Argentine leader contrasted the turmoil of those years with today in order to criticism of the role of the OAS, maintaining that in 2009 the body "was taking the lead to defend democracies in Latin America and not to overturn them."
During her speech, the vice-president lashed out at "the embassy" for "financing judicial coups in Latin America," comparing it to similar 20th-century coups that were carried out by military officers "instructed at the School of the Americas in Panama."
"We no longer need military coups, now we have to get judges educated in commissions and forums," she said.
Warming to the theme, Fernández de Kirchner declared: "They are the same financiers. They are once again trying to install neoliberalism in the region. Neoliberalism advocates the shrinking of the state. They believe it should be reduced to the minimum. There have even emerged some currents that call themselves libertarians who want to abolish the state."
The former president argued that "when the state cannot generate well-paid work and access to housing and health through active policies, the drug-traffickers appear."
"What a contradiction! Those who say that we have to make an adjustment [i.e. adopt austerity measures] and shrink the state then come and say that we have to fight drugs," she declared.
In comments that alluded to Argentina's ongoing talks with the IMF without naming them, she added: "In a meeting we had with another president of the region, with [ex-Guatemala president] Álvaro Colom, he said that the narcos built schools that he couldn't because he had to apply the austerity policies dictated by the funds."