On the same day that the Senate voted to allow raids on Cristina Fernández de Kircher’s properties as part of investigations into the ongoing “notebooks scandal,” she gave an inflammatory speech in Congress in which she defended herself against what she perceives to be political persecution of the highest order.
In the speech, Senator Kirchner is clearly seething as she criticizes her political friends and foes, compares herself to the political prisoners of Argentina’s last military dictatorship, and claims that she is being prosecuted as part of a regional reaction against the “popular leaders” of the Pink Tide. We’ve picked out and unpacked the top 10 quotes from her 45 minute speech for you.
1. “I’m not the problem in this government. The problem is you and your awful policies.”
This one is fairly straightforward. Cristina has made no secret of her dislike of the Macri administration, which she has previously described as a “catastrophe.” She has directed most of her scorn towards President Mauricio Macri’s economic policies, in particular his cuts to public spending.
2. “Neither can I ignore that in all of this there is intense friendly fire. I want to be honest, if tomorrow I were to be struck by a bolt of lightening and all that remained were my ashes, many would not become president with the popular vote.”
Not only did Cristina criticize her political enemies but she also turned her attention onto members of her own party. This was a thinly-veiled attack against her former ally, Peronist Miguel Angel Pichetto, who is now at odds with her and intends to run for president next year. She said that the government’s problem was also the “men” in her party who “think that I’m an obstacle to getting anywhere.” She then adds that without her, her party, Frente para La Victoria, would never come to power.
3. “It is not true what was said about how, in 2001, a Senator was raided because of the bribery scandal. This is the first time that the house of a Senator will be raided. I was the first female President and I’ll be the first senator raided.”
Is this a case of the Senator who cried sexism? Sure, Argentina is known for some pretty blatant machismo, but here Cristina basically says that the reason that Senate has allowed her property to be raided is because she is a woman. Also, technically Cristina is the second female President, after Isabel Martínez de Perón who held the role for two years before being usurped by the military junta, but let’s not quibble over formalities. No one wants the silver medal.
4. “Do you really think Bonadio is impartial? There are six cases against me and five are headed by him. It’s almost as if he has an alert on the name Kirchner. When a case appears with the “Kirchner” name in it, ding, there he his.”
Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio is indeed presiding over five of the cases against Cristina and requested the raids on her properties. This led her to have her own Regina George moment and ask Bonadio, “Why are you so obsessed with me??”
5. “We are in an Argentina presided over by Mauricio Macri, the son of Franco. The cousin of Angelo Calcaterra and the blood brother of Nicky Caputo. Do you really believe that [the patria contratista] began in 2003?”
In any case, says Cristina, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. She is referring to the involvement of President Macri and his father in the Panama Papers Scandal. The files, published in 2016, named Macri as director of an offshore company which he didn’t declare during his tenure as Mayor of Buenos Aires. His cousin, Angelo Calcaterra, was also charged in this case and took a plea bargain and Nicolás Caputo is an Argentine businessman and close friend of Macri, who has been implicated alongside the president in various corruption and money laundering scandals linked to public works contracts.
6. “Do you think that those “repenting” are telling the truth? […] This is an instrument of persecution and banishment of popular leaders, which I make clear to you as an enemy of Judge Bonadio. Bonadio is an instrument, a puppet. This is a regional model.”
The governments of Cristina and Nestor Kirchner formed part of the Pink Tide, or marea rosa, the perceived ideological shift towards socialism and away from neoliberalism in Latin America in the early twenty-first century. The movement was also characterized by the populist leaders such as Lula da Silva in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia.
In April, Lula was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison on money laundering and corruption charges, and Correa is currently under investigation by the Ecuadorean government for ties to the Odebrecht scandal in Brazil. Senator Kirchner is alleging that these corruption investigations are part of a regional neoliberal plot to oust these popular leaders
7. “It is no longer necessary to resort to the methods of the dictatorship. There is no need to suppress the untameable adversary. There was a generation, far beyond extremism, who did not yield. And as they did not yield, 30,000 of them were ‘disappeared’.”
Disappeared is an intensely charged word in Argentina, where it is estimated that 30,000 people were abducted and murdered by the military junta during the country’s bloody dictatorship, commonly referred to outside of Argentina as ‘Dirty War’ (but don’t use that term here). Cristina compares her home being raided to the political oppression experienced by political dissidents of the regime, at one point laying the blame firmly at the media’s door. “There is a new form of disappearance. Disappearance from the media.”
8. “Do you think that because of Bonadio and these outrages I will regret it? No. I regret nothing. In any case, I regret not having been intelligent or open enough to convince and persuade that what we were doing, with mistakes and wins, improved the lives of millions of people living in Argentina.”
Well, there it is. Kirchner has always maintained that any decisions she made as President were aimed at improving the lives of the Argentine people, in comparison to Macri, who she claims only has the interests of big business at heart. If you had to summarize this speech to one sentence, it would be “I regret nothing.”
9. “There is a shameless, humiliating manipulation towards me. But if they believe that with this they are going to make me change my ideas, they are wrong. For better or for worse, I belong to a generation that grew up with the fear that we would be hunted down to be ‘disappeared’, or raped, or thrown into the sea.”
Once again, Senator Kirchner decided to compare being investigated for corruption to the period of state-sponsored terrorism experienced by those living under the military junta of the 1970s and 80s. Because, in her head, they seem to be the exact same thing.
10. “It is fair that there are people who don’t like me, but what is not fair is that they want to make it look like we live in a fair system. Equality must be for everyone. Even you, Señora [referring to vice-President Gabriela Michetti]. You also had bags of money. Did anyone raid your house?”
Cristina criticized what she considers to be inequality in the Argentine judicial system in the processing of political scandals. Many of the Senators, including some of Kircher’s loudest critics, have been implicated in corruption scandals such as the Panama Papers, and Kirchner alleges that the reason that she is being singled out is a matter of political prosecution. “When it [involves] someone from Cambiemos, they change the prosecutor so that they don’t bother them. If it’s someone from Frente para La Victoria, they do everything in a week.”
You can watch the full speech below: it’s quite something.