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ARGENTINA | 01-03-2023 16:03

Fernández takes aim at Judiciary, defends veep in Congress speech

Argentina’s president delivers traditional state-of-the-nation speech to legislative assembly, marking the beginning of the congressional year; in his first public appearance with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for nine months, Alberto Fernández defends his vice-president and condemns failed shooting attack.

President Alberto Fernández on Wednesday used a landmark speech to Argentina’s Congress to defend his government, attack the Judiciary and highlight the "persecution" of his vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Delivering the final state-of-the-nation address of his administration, the Peronist leader escalated his criticism of the Supreme Court and called for support in his bid to "make the necessary adjustments to the judicial system."

Fernández went on to defend his term in office, now entering its fourth year, and highlight the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war on Argentina's economy, which is struggling from a severe drought and runaway inflation, among other problems.

As he formally opening the congressional year, the president devoted a large chunk of his speech to criticising the actions of the Judiciary, which he said was lacking public support.

Fernández, 63, said that "the Judiciary does not have public confidence, does not function effectively and does not show the required independence from the de facto and political powers."

The president, who has unsuccessfully attempted to reform the justice system during his time in office, also slammed a recent Supreme Court verdict over the split of federal revenue-sharing funds. The justices  ruled in favour of opposition-controlled Buenos Aires City government over Fernández's national administration.

The president is now pushing for the impeachment of Supreme Court justices, whom she accuses of aligning themselves with the opposition.

Fernández then moved onto the legal problems facing his vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was sentenced last December to six years in prison and given a ban on running for political office, a decision that the president described as "legal absurdity."

The ruling has not been confirmed by a higher court and Fernández de Kirchner enjoys immunity due to her position.

The Judiciary "crowned its actions with a conviction in the first instance of the Vice-President of the Nation,” raged Fernández on Wednesday, as he criticised “a trial in which the minimum forms of due process were not taken care of and accusations bordering on legal absurdity were formulated in order to disqualify her from politics.”

Fernández also referenced the failed shooting attack that Fernández de Kirchner survived last year, calling on the Judiciary to deepen its investigation into the perpetrators and organisers of the attack.

"I once again demand that the judiciary deepen the investigation. I ask them to act with the same haste with which they file cases against judges and powerful businessmen,” declared the president.

As Fernández spoke, two of the four Supreme Court justices, Horacio Rosatti and Carlos Rosenkrantz, watched on with grim faces. The ruling Frente de Todos coalition is currently seeking the impeachment of the nation’s highest tribunal.

 

‘My moderation’

The most interesting rhetorical note of the speech came when the president sought to challenge the critical members of his own coalition who have dubbed him "lukewarm" and would prefer Fernández not to seek re-election later this year.

"It was me, with my moderation, who guaranteed a vaccine for all Argentines. It was I who stood by [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] and Evo Morales. It was I who stood by Cristina when she was unjustly persecuted," Fernández responded.

Unsurprisingly, the president talked up the impact of his government, hailing advances in gas production, science, education, infant mortality, gender violence and unemployment data.

Fernández did not confirm whether he would run for president, though he did address the country's economic situation and runaway inflation, which last year reached 94.8 percent. 

"We do not pretend to deny the difficulties ... the high inflation that we all suffer is a central factor in the disorganisation of our economy. We are working to reduce it without increasing poverty levels or slowing growth," he said.

The president defended his tenure by highlighting the economic rebound after the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting growth of 5.4 percent last year. Projections for this year are good, he said: "It will be three consecutive years of growth, something that hasn't happened since 2008."

The address, Fernández’s fourth state-of-the-nation speech to the legislative assembly, marked the first time the president and his vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had shared main billing at a public event in nine months.

The previous time the duo met in public was last June 2, when they shared an event at Tecnópolis to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of state energy firm YPF, just hours before then-productive development minister Matías Kulfas announced his decision to leave the Cabinet. The relationship between Argentina’s top two leaders deteriorated further in the following months, especially in the weeks surrounding then-economy minister Martín Guzmán’s resignation a month later. 

The president arrived at Congress at around 11am and was greeted by a host of officials and lawmakers, including Fernández de Kirchner, who was in charge of the formal ceremony of the act, and the head of the lower house, Cecilia Moreau.

 

— TIMES/NA/PERFIL

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