Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as well as her children Máximo and Florencia, have been called to testify regarding their involvement in the Hotesur case, in which they have been formally accused of taking part in a money laundering scheme using the family owned hotel — called Alto Calafate — as a front. Associate businessman Lázaro Báez was also called to testify, along with 13 other suspects.
The former president has been summoned to testify before Federal Judge Julián Ercolini, who made the decision to question her following two requests from Prosecutors Gerardo Pollicita and Ignacio Mahiques.
The prosecutors are trying to determine whether the Kirchner administration knowingly and unlawfully gave the green light to Báez in obtaining 80 percent of the public works project that were supposed to be carried out in Santa Cruz Province between 2003 and 2015 — which amount to AR$16 billion — in order to get a percentage of the benefits back and thus embezzle public funds. Báez would have paid these benefits by renting thousands of rooms in the Kirchner family’s hotel that would later not be used.
According to the prosecutors’ investigation, members of the Kirchner administration appointed people to several government positions which managed public works contracts that were later given to Báez: “This way, once the structure was set up, the next stage involved choosing the territory where the operation would be carried out. As we said, it consisted in concentrating the largest sum of State funds destined to public works in one place: Santa Cruz,” notes the request.
It’s unlikely this round of testimonies will bring a breakthrough in the case. The former president, as with the rest of the defendants, have always refused to answer the Judge’s questions and instead present written statements claiming they are victims of a judicial persecution orchestrated by their political enemies.
However, court dates like these are always relevant and put an extremely controversial issue at the forefront of the political conversation yet again, and will surely used by both Fernández and her opponents to score some political points, especially as October’s mid term elections loom large. The former president will almost certainly intensify the narrative of being persecuted for political purposes and her opponents — mostly members of Cambiemos — will make sure people don’t forget about all the corruption scandals she has been accused of being involved in.
That’s why it wouldn’t be surprising that, in contrast with the previous times she made her way to the Comodoro Py courthouses, Fernández will hold some sort of event with her supporters, like she did in April 2016 when she was called to testify for the first time after leaving office.