Things are going from bad to worse for Cristina Kirchner and her last name’s legacy. Embroiled in various corruption cases and with lawmakers in Congress arguing whether to strip her of congressional immunity, now international voices have joined the mounting criticism of the former president and her predecessor and late husband, Néstor Kirchner.
Ecuadorian legislator Byron Suquilanda, member of the liberal CREO party, presented an initiative yesterday to remove the statue of Néstor Kirchner from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Secretariat Headquarters in the city of Mitad del Mundo, near Quito. In a speech to the Ecuadorian National Assembly, he described the statue as a “defense of corruption” and called on the “patriotic feeling” of Ecuador’s representatives to get rid of the statue.
“You all know about the consequences of corruption in the Argentine government. And you all know that the UNASUR is not carrying out the task for which it was created. Six countries have already left. This is why I want to join the President’s initiative that this building, which was constructed with US $43.5 million of taxes paid by the people of Ecuador, should become the Indigenous University of Ecuador.”
If the building were to become this university, he said, “the monument of the former Argentine president has no place in front of the ex-UNASUR building, because he is not a good example for Ecuadorians and is not the representation of Latin American integrity for which the UNASUR was created.”
Suquilanda later posted on his Facebook: “Our country has a rich history of brave men and women, who make us proud every day. Therefore, we cannot allow homage to such a criticized person as Néstor Kirchner. Today I asked the National Assembly to immediately withdraw the monument of this former Argentine president from the UNASUR building, because his image does not represent the values of the noble Ecuadorian people. The fight against corruption requires that we raise our voices and make the voices of citizens heard.”
This move comes as part of a wider wave of criticism in Ecuador of the Correa administration’s links with the Kirchners. Four months ago, a Change.org petition was started to remove statues of Kirchner and other “delinquents,” including Che Guevara and Arturo Jarrín, from public spaces in Ecuador.
The petition, started by Poder Ciudadano EC, said that the government “seek to overshadow their crimes by confusing citizens, reciting values and principles that they do not possess or practice. It is shameful to pass in front of these symbols of innocent deaths and looting of resources, paid for by contributors who are perverse manipulators of truth, greedy for power and money.”
Néstor Kirchner became the inaugural Secretary General of USAN in May 2010, a post he held for five months until his death in October 2010. In a ceremony in 2014, the building in question, the Secretariat Headquarters, was named after him and the 600kg bronze statue in question was unveiled at its entrance.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is currently implicated in high-profile corruption cases in Argentina. The “Notebooks of Corruption” scandal revealed a suspected bribery scheme involving business leaders and high-ranking Kirchner administration officials, including the former presidents. This case has drawn attention back to the long-running “Los Sauces” case, which accuses the Kirchners of of money laundering and embezzlement through the Los Sauces real estate company.
These corruption cases have not escaped international attention and Ecuador will no doubt be the first of various other countries attempting to shed themselves of association with the embattled former presidents. The motion to remove the statue was approved with 72 votes in favor, 30 against, and 9 abstentions. It will be removed in coming days, but deciding what to do with it will be another question entirely.