Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the Argentine former president who with her late husband dominated the country’s politics for most of this century, was indicted Tuesday on fraud and corruption charges involving huge public works projects. It was her second indictment since she left office last year.
Several members of her administration, including Julio De Vido, a former planning minister, and José López, a former public works secretary, were also charged in the case. Lázaro Báez, a businessman long associated with Mrs. Kirchner and her husband, Néstor Kirchner, was charged, too. One of his companies, Austral Construcciones, was accused of being the beneficiary of corruption.
The former officials are accused of being part of an illegal association “that operated between at least May 8, 2003, and Dec. 9, 2015, and was created to commit crimes to illegally and deliberately appropriate itself with funds that were assigned to road works,” according to the indictment. The charges focus on 52 projects in the southern province of Santa Cruz, where Néstor Kirchner was governor for more than a decade until he became president of Argentina in 2003.
Julián Ercolini, a federal judge, said that Mr. Báez’s company, which did not exist until shortly before Mr. Kirchner became president, was awarded contracts worth $2.97 billion. That included 15 percent surcharges above the original cost of the contracts, Judge Ercolini added.
Mrs. Kirchner, who was president for two terms between 2007 and 2015, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and characterizes her legal troubles as little more than political persecution by her successor and rival, President Mauricio Macri.
“Conspiracy was the crime that was created by de facto governments and used by all the dictatorships to persecute opposition leaders,” Mrs. Kirchner wrote on Twitter after the indictment was announced.
Even while she was in office, she accused United States interests and others of being part of a crusade to undermine leftist leaders in Latin America, including her. She often compares her situation to that of Dilma Rousseff, the former president of Brazil and an ally of her administration, who was impeached this year.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Daniel Politi