Bullrich defends plan to name prison after Cristina Kirchner

The presidential candidate’s video of a model jail with the vice president’s name sparked controversy over the weekend

Juntos por el Cambio presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich has doubled down on her plan announced over the weekend to build a maximum-security prison and name it after Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. 

“It symbolizes the idea that Argentina needs to end impunity,” Bullrich told television channel LN+, speaking from the celebrations for Alfredo Cornejo’s victory in the Mendoza gubernatorial election. “Argentina needs those who have robbed people, drug traffickers, criminals, the corrupt, to serve their sentences.

The proposal, which she announced in a campaign video, immediately triggered the rejection of both Peronists and a member of her own coalition.

“Since Kirchnerism has appropriated everything and has put [the name] Néstor Kirchner on absolutely everything […] we think that a public building like a prison can also take the name Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.”

The video shows Bullrich sitting in front of a scale model of the prison. “I committed to ending chaos in this devastated Argentina,” Bullrich says, continuing that one of her first measures would be building a maximum-security prison in an isolated area as soon as she took office.

The prison would hold drug dealers, murderers and people sentenced for corruption, “who are enjoying impunity given to them by Kirchnerist politicians,” according to Bullrich.

The plan is similar to the megaprison constructed by the government of El Salvador’s authoritarian President Nayib Bukele. A crackdown on gangs has led to tens of thousands of people, mostly young men, being jailed. Human rights groups have raised the alarm about a lack of due process, but the approach has sparked the interest of security hardliner politicians around Latin America.

In the video, the presidential candidate and former Security Minister during Mauricio Macri’s government (2015-2019) says the prison will have phone signal blockers and “incorruptible” guards, with individualized vigilance of the inmates. The video ends with a zoom in to the prospective jail’s name, “Penal Unit Dr Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.”

Bullrich even said that Kirchner could go to the prison named after her if the judiciary potentially sentenced her in one of the cases opened against her. “What’s the issue? If the judiciary decides she will go to jail, then she will,” Bullrich said in an interview with Metro radio station on Sunday.

In December, Kirchner was convicted of defrauding the state and sentenced to six years in prison in the case known as Vialidad. However, she has always maintained that she is innocent and is appealing the case. Her sentence cannot take effect until she has exhausted her options. Moreover, she has already turned 70, from which age Argentine prisoners are eligible to serve out their sentences under house arrest. 

The proposal was immediately rejected by members of the ruling coalition Unión por la Patria (UxP). Security Minister Aníbal Fernández described it as “a cheap trick, like we’re used to seeing from her,” to La Patriada radio station, adding that Bullrich insults Kirchner without making any real proposals. “This lady’s term in the Security Ministry was horrendous.”

Pablo Moyano, one of the leaders of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT, by its Spanish acronym), said that Bullrich “will have to build a much larger prison, because there are going to be thousands of us [protesting] on the streets” if she wins the elections.

The proposal drew some criticism from Bullrich’s own coalition, too. National Deputy Emiliano Yacobitti of the Evolución Radical bloc — which often expresses its differences with its coalition-mates, the PRO party, to which Bullrich belongs — said he doesn’t like the idea of building that kind of jail.

“I wouldn’t do that, I don’t think it’s good to have that in your electoral platform,” he said.


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