Hundreds of people marched to Plaza Lavalle, the square in front of the Argentine Supreme Court in central Buenos Aires, in a show of support for Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Under the motto “Democracy or judicial mafia,” social organizations led by Kirchnerite political group La Cámpora protested against her potential lifetime political ban from office.
The march comes amid fervent speculation about who ruling coalition Frente de Todos will nominate for the presidency. The political alliance has been suffering deep rifts as inflation soars above 100%, worsening poverty, and President Alberto Fernández and CFK maintain a chilly relationship.
Buenos Aires province Governor Axel Kicillof, the headline speaker, described a historical “judicial war” being waged against the vice president that sought to “limit and restrict the decisions and the wishes of the people.”.
“The judicial war has several tools and objectives. One is to sully popular leadership and another is to cover up right-wing politicians and businesspeople when they commit crimes” said Kicillof. “But it’s also been useful to try and govern through sentences and rulings.”
“We cannot live in a democracy on its knees […] where a ruling in a dark corridor, in a dark office, with four signatures is worth the same as those of millions of Argentines.”
In December 2022, Kirchner received a six-year jail term and a lifetime ban from public office for the “Vialidad” case, accused of fraudulently awarding public works contracts during her terms as president. However, her legal team is set to appeal the ruling and she is still legally allowed to run for office until those appeals have been exhausted.
He emphasized that the date is also symbolic, marking the seventh anniversary of the first protest against the judiciary in 2013, where Kirchner’s supporters marched in Comodoro Py when Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío summoned her for an inquest regarding dollar futures.
Throughout his speech, Kicillof highlighted other popular historical figures, including former presidents Hipólito Yrigoyen and Juan Domingo Perón, who faced “persecution from the judicial party.”
“Don’t think that this is the first time that economic powers have used the judiciary to impose their ideas and decisions behind the people’s back — and against the people,” he said.
“The same ‘judicial party’ that wants to ban Cristina today didn’t even move a finger to find those intellectually responsible for the attempt against her life, nor those who financed it,” Kicillof said. “We are patient, we are peaceful, but we are not idiots. This has to end now.”
On September 1, Fernando Andrés Sabag Montiel, 35, attempted to shoot Fernández de Kirchner at point blank range outside her Recoleta home. On February 16, judges confirmed charges of incitement to collective violence against members of far-right group Federal Revolution (Revolución Federal) over the attack.
Kicillof also spoke out against Macri and the dispute over how federal tax revenues are split between provinces and the capital city, using his now customary phrase that this election year is about “voting for the right or for our rights.”
Kirchner has not expressed an interest in running in this year’s elections and said after her conviction was read out that she would not run for any kind of elected office this year.
Nonetheless, her supporters remain hopeful.
Outside the Supreme Court, marchers set a small bonfire in the street and hung an enormous white handkerchief, emblematic of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, emblazoned with the face of Hebe de Bonafini, the association’s former president, who passed away in 2022. “NO TO PROSCRIPTION. CRISTINA LEADER,” the text read.
Sergio Turcovich, 64, was outside the court holding a diorama that showed the four members of the supreme court with the logos of major Argentine media companies in the background. When he pulled one string, doors beneath them opened to reveal the Justices’ lower bodies as snakes in the claws of a bald eagle clutching a U.S. flag. When he pulled another, it brought bars down in front of them. On top, it said “True justice for the judicial mafia.”
Turcovich said that Kirchnerism to him meant “the possibility for a change that benefits people in general, because even the current government, which is supposedly of the same political sign, has managed for there to be 40% poverty in the country.”
He said he viewed the Supreme Court as “the henchmen of the Argentine right, who for their part are under North American tutelage.” To him, CFK is the only person who gives people hope that things could change for the better.”
Camila, a teacher who didn’t want to give her last name for fear of reprisals at work, was at the protest with her young daughter. She decided to attend because “I think democracy is at risk, and because I back Cristina, she’s been my political leader for many years, but also because she made me believe in politics.”
She said that while CFK and her husband Néstor Kirchner were in power, they implemented policies to benefit the poor.
“Unfortunately, lately hunger is winning,” she said.
Amy Booth contributed reporting from Plaza Lavalle.