No menu items!

Who is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s most polarizing politician?

An Argentine prosecutor last month sentenced Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the country’s vice president, to 12 years in prison for her alleged involvement in awarding public contracts to a friend that cost taxpayers US$1 billion.

Kirchner, who denies all charges of political persecution, called on her supporters to gather outside her home in Recoleta, a posh neighborhood in the capital, Buenos Aires.

As she greeted some of them on Sept. 1, a man pointed a pistol toward her and pulled the trigger.

The very young Cristina Fernández. (Photo internet reproduction)
The very young Cristina Fernández. (Photo internet reproduction)

No shots were fired, because the gun allegedly malfunctioned.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández (no relation) called it the “most serious” event since the country’s return to democracy in 1983.

He called a holiday so tens of thousands of Peronists – a leftist movement to which both belong – could demonstrate in support of the vice president.

But who is Ms. Kirchner, Argentina’s most polarizing politician?

Cristina Fernández was born into a modest family in 1953; her father was a bus driver, and her mother was an office worker who studied law at the University of La Plata near Buenos Aires.

There she met charismatic Néstor Kirchner, who became her husband and political partner.

Nestor and Cristina Kirchner. (Photo internet reproduction)
Néstor and Cristina Kirchner. (Photo internet reproduction)

In 1976, to escape the attention of the country’s military dictatorship, the couple moved to Néstor’s home province of Santa Cruz in remote Patagonia, where they made political careers.

He became governor, and she became senator, establishing themselves as leaders of the socialist populist wing of Peronism.

Their success came in 2003 when Néstor was elected president of Argentina.

She succeeded him in office; after he died of a heart attack, she won a second term.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. (Photo internet reproduction)
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in her prime. (Photo internet reproduction)

During her tenure, she combined measures, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, with nationalist, socialist and statist economic policies.

She re-nationalized the oil company YPF and put private pension funds in state hands.

She increased subsidies and aid to the poorest Argentines using booming agricultural export prices.

Her government was marked by conflict: She tried unsuccessfully to control the judiciary and the private media.

When she imposed special taxes on farmers, there were large protests.

She could not prevent her primary opponent Mauricio Macri, a conservative businessman, from succeeding her in 2015.

Kirchner returned to the Senate.

Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner before their fallout. (Photo internet reproduction)
Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner before their fallout. (Photo internet reproduction)

There she plotted her revenge against Mr. Macri by uniting the various factions of Peronism.

In a rush, she handed the top spot on the movement’s presidential list to Alberto Fernández, who appealed to more moderate voters.

Alberto Fernández won the presidency in 2019, and Cristina Kirchner became vice president.

She rejected his agreement with the IMF to renegotiate Argentina’s enormous debt and blocked his efforts to rein in the budget deficit.

Kirchner has exploited Argentina’s penchant for melodrama and political theater, a resilient and intelligent politician who instinctively knows when to speak and when to remain silent.

She has portrayed her corruption trial as a conspiracy of the judiciary, media, and business.

But her star is sinking.

Cristina Kirchner, a tough politician. (Photo internet reprodution)
Cristina Kirchner, a tough politician. (Photo internet reprodution)

But their relationship soon deteriorated.

Although she could run again in next year’s presidential election, her core support currently stands at about twenty-five percent of the electorate.

Many of her opponents have claimed that the foiled assassination attempt on her was staged to distract attention from the corruption case, although there is no evidence.

Peronism has rallied behind her for now, but sympathy for the alleged assassination attempt may soon wane.


Check out our other content