Argentina's former leader Kirchner 'not afraid of jail'

Kirchner says she does not fear going to jail if it is the political price she must pay for her progressive policies.

    Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said she doesn't fear the prospect of going to jail, describing her growing legal troubles as part of a "persecution" of progressive Latin American leaders that has boosted the right in the region.

    Speaking to foreign media on Saturday, Kirchner compared her situation to that of Brazil's suspended centre-left President Dilma Rousseff, now subjected to an impeachment trial in the Senate.

    "In the case of Brazil, the intervention of a partisan judiciary is very clear, and you're seeing it here as well," Kirchner said, describing parallel efforts by media to smear progressive leaders.

    "It's obvious it's a judicial persecution."

    Kirchner is facing four investigations, "three of them on corruption and money laundering," said Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo, reporting from El Calafate.

    "While the corruption cases seem to be getting closer to Kirchner, until now she hasn't been formally charged."

    READ MORE: Ex-Argentine leader Kirchner's properties raided

    Kirchner, 63, said allegations of graft and money laundering during her administration were trumped up by unnamed powerful interests who want to punish her for putting Argentines before foreign investors as she managed Latin America's third biggest economy between 2007 and 2015.

    Investigations targeting the former president have moved rapidly since her centre-right nemesis, Mauricio Macri, replaced her as president in December.

    In May, Kirchner was indicted on charges related to the central bank's sale of dollars in the futures market.

    Soon after, anti-corruption police searched her properties and she was embarrassed anew when her former public works secretary was caught stashing bags of cash in a convent in a Buenos Aires suburb last month.

    "I don't want to minimise anything, but I think those are episodes that can take place for any government," Kirchner said. She called for an audit of public works in her government that she said would clear her of any involvement in wrongdoing.

    Kirchner said she does not fear going to jail if it is the political price she must pay for her policies, including generous welfare spending and the nationalisation of energy company YPF and the airline Aerolineas Argentinas.

    "When you make decisions like these, it's clear that you risk going to jail and being politically persecuted," she told reporters.

    READ MORE: Cristina Kirchner defiant over cover-up accusations

    The former leader lamented the recent victories of Macri and other conservatives in the region that she says threaten the progress made by the once-powerful alliance of leftist leaders led by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

    "There's been a regression of what were once national and popular governments in the region," said Kirchner, who succeeded her husband, the late Nestor Kirchner, as president.

    Macri's decision to slash subsidies for utilities has hurt the middle class, Kirchner added, and the deal he brokered with hedge funds that had sued Argentina over its unpaid debt had yet to revive an economy mired in recession.

    "They thought it would rain dollars after that agreement," she said.

    Macri has denied having any involvement in the judicial branch. Prosecutors investigating Fernandez could not be reached for comment outside of regular working hours.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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