Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

For the American photographer, see Christina Fernandez (photographer).
This name uses Argentine naming customs for married women: the birth family name is Fernández and the marital name is Kirchner.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
President of Argentina
In office
10 December 2007  10 December 2015[1]
Vice President Julio Cobos
Amado Boudou
Preceded by Néstor Kirchner
Succeeded by Mauricio Macri
First Lady of Argentina
In role
25 May 2003  10 December 2007
Preceded by Hilda de Duhalde
Succeeded by Néstor Kirchner
as First Gentleman
National Senator of Argentina
In office
10 December 2005  28 November 2007
Constituency Buenos Aires
In office
10 December 2001  9 December 2005
Constituency Santa Cruz
In office
10 December 1995  3 December 1997
Constituency Santa Cruz
National Deputy of Argentina
In office
10 December 1997  9 December 2001
Constituency Santa Cruz
Personal details
Born Cristina Elisabet Fernández
(1953-02-19) 19 February 1953
La Plata, Argentina
Political party Justicialist
Other political
Front for Victory (2003–present)
Spouse(s) Néstor Kirchner
(m. 1975; d. 2010)
Children 2 (notably Máximo)
Alma mater National University of La Plata

Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner (Spanish pronunciation: [kɾisˈtina elisaˈβet ferˈnandes de ˈkiɾʃneɾ]; born 19 February 1953), sometimes referred to by her initials CFK,[2][3][note 1] is an Argentine lawyer and politician, who served as President of Argentina from 2007 to 2015. She was the second woman to serve as President of Argentina, the first directly elected female president, and the first woman re-elected to the office. Ideologically a Peronist and social democrat, she was a member of the Justicialist Party, with her political approach being characterised as Kirchnerism.

Born in La Plata, Buenos Aires Province, she studied law at the University of La Plata, and moved to Patagonia with her husband Néstor Kirchner upon graduation. She was elected to the provincial legislature; her husband was elected mayor of Río Gallegos. She was elected national senator in 1995, and had a controversial tenure, while her husband was elected governor of Santa Cruz Province. In 1994, she was also elected to the constituent assembly that amended the Constitution of Argentina. She was the First Lady from 2003 to 2007 after Néstor Kirchner was elected president.

Néstor Kirchner did not run for reelection. Instead, Cristina Kirchner was the candidate for the Front for Victory party, becoming president in the 2007 presidential election. Her first term of office started with a conflict with the agricultural sector, and her proposed taxation system was rejected. After this she nationalized private pension funds, and fired the president of the Central Bank. The price of public services remained subsidised, the country lost its self-supply of energy, and she renationalized energy firm YPF as a result. The country fell into sovereign default in 2014. The country had good relations with other South American nations, and a rocky one with the United States and the United Kingdom. She also continued her husband's human rights policies, and had a rocky relationship with the press. Néstor Kirchner died in 2010, and Cristina Kirchner was reelected in 2011. She established currency controls during her second term. Several corruption scandals took place, and she faced several demonstrations against her rule. Her defeat in the 2013 midterm elections prevented an attempt to amend the constitution to allow the president to run for a third term. Governor Daniel Scioli was appointed as the candidate for the 2015 presidential elections. Scioli was defeated by Mayor Mauricio Macri in a ballotage.

Early life and education

Cristina Fernández during her youth

Cristina Fernández was born on 19 February 1953, at Tolosa, a suburb of La Plata, capital of the Buenos Aires Province.[6] She was the daughter of Eduardo Fernández and Ofelia Esther Wilhelm. Eduardo Fernández, a bus driver, was anti-Peronist, and Wilhelm was a Peronist union leader. Wilhelm was a single mother. Fernández married her and moved into her house when Cristina was two years old. Most details about her childhood, such as her elementary school, are unknown.[7] She attended high school at Popular Mercantil and Misericordia schools.[7]

She began her college studies at the University of La Plata. She studied psychology for a year, then dropped it and studied law instead. She met fellow student Néstor Kirchner in 1973. He introduced her to political debates. There were heated political controversies at the time caused by: the decline of the Argentine Revolution military government, the return of the former president Juan Perón from exile, the election of Héctor Cámpora as president of Argentina, and the early stages of the Dirty War. She became influenced by Peronism, left-wing politics, and anti-imperialism.[7] Despite the presence of sympathizers of the Montoneros guerrillas in La Plata, the Kirchners had never been involved themselves.[7] Cristina and Néstor married in a civil ceremony on 9 May 1975. Wilhelm got them administrative jobs at her union.[7] The 1976 Argentine coup d'état took place the following year. Cristina proposed to go to Río Gallegos, Néstor's home city, but he delayed their departure until his graduation on 3 July.[7]

Cristina had not yet graduated when they moved to Río Gallegos, and was tested by free exams for the remaining subjects. There have been claims made that she never graduated, and that she may have worked as a lawyer without having a degree. This idea was proposed by the constitutionalist Daniel Sabsay, and fueled by the reluctance of the National University of La Plata (UNLP) to release her degree.[8] She registered at the Tribunal Superior de Justicia of Santa Cruz in 1980, the Comodoro Rivadavia's chamber of appeals in 1985, and worked as an attorney for the Justicialist Party in 1983. There are also logs of minor cases where she acted as a lawyer.[9] The claim has been sent to trial four times, and the judges Norberto Oyarbide, Ariel Lijo, Sergio Torres, and Claudio Bonadio all ruled that she has a degree.[10]

Néstor established a law firm that Cristina joined in 1979.[11] The firm worked for banks and financial groups that filed eviction lawsuits, as the 1050 ruling of the Central Bank had increased the interest rates for mortgage loans.[11] The Kirchners acquired twenty-one land lots at cheap prices as they were about to be auctioned.[12] Although forced disappearances were common during the Dirty War, Néstor and Cristina Kirchner never signed any habeas corpus requests.[13] Their law firm took military personnel involved in the Dirty War as clients.[14]

Political career

Cristina Kirchner was elected deputy for the provincial legislature of Santa Cruz in 1989. The Justicialist Party (PJ), led by Carlos Menem, returned to the presidency in the 1989 general elections. She served as interim governor of Santa Cruz for a couple of days, after the impeachment of Ricardo del Val in 1990.[15] She organized Néstor's political campaign when he was elected governor of Santa Cruz in 1991. In 1994, she was elected to the constituent assembly that amended the Constitution of Argentina.

She was elected national senator in the 1995 general elections. She opposed most bills proposed by Menem, such as a treaty with Chilean president Patricio Aylwin that benefited Chile in a dispute over the Argentina–Chile border.[16] The Minister of Defense Oscar Camilión was questioned in Congress about the Argentine arms trafficking scandal; Kirchner told him that he had to resign, which he refused to do.[17] As a result, she made a name for herself as a troublemaker. She was removed from the PJ bloc in the Congress in 1997 for misconduct.[16] She resigned her senatorial seat that year and ran for national deputy in the 1997 midterm elections instead. Menem ended his term of office in 1999 and was replaced by Fernando de la Rúa. Kirchner took part in a commission to investigate money laundering with fellow legislator Elisa Carrió, and got into conflicts with her. She ran again for senator in the 2001 midterm elections.[16]

Néstor Kirchner was elected president in 2003, and Cristina became the First Lady. Under these circumstances, she sought a lower profile in Congress.[16] Néstor Kirchner had a political dispute with the previous president, Eduardo Duhalde. Their dispute continued during the 2005 midterm elections. Without consensus in the PJ for a single candidate for senator of the Buenos Aires province, both leaders had their respective wives run for the office: Hilda González de Duhalde for the PJ, and Cristina Kirchner for the Front for Victory.[18] Cristina Kirchner won the election.[19]

Presidential campaigns

2007 presidential campaign

Campaigning with her husband, then-President Néstor Kirchner (outgoing), and their respective running mates, Daniel Scioli and Julio Cobos.

With Kirchner leading all the pre-election polls by a wide margin, her challengers focused on forcing her into a ballotage. To win in a single round, a presidential candidate in Argentina needs either more than 45% of the vote, or 40% of the vote and a lead of more than 10 percentage points over the runner-up. However, with 13 challengers splitting the vote, Kirchner won the election decisively in the first round with just over 45% of the vote, followed by 23% for Elisa Carrió (candidate for the Civic Coalition) and 17% for former Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna.[20] Kirchner was popular among the suburban working class and the rural poor, while Carrió and Lavagna both received more support from the urban middle class.[21] Kirchner lost the election in the large cities of Buenos Aires and Rosario.[21]

On 14 November, the president-elect announced the names of her new cabinet, which was sworn in on 10 December. Of the twelve ministers appointed, seven had been ministers in Néstor Kirchner's government, while the other five took office for the first time. The selections anticipated the continuation of the policies implemented by Néstor Kirchner.[22]

She began a four-year term on 10 December 2007, facing challenges including: inflation, poor public security, international credibility, a faulty energy infrastructure, and protests from the agricultural sectors over an increase of nearly 30% on export taxes.[22] Kirchner was the second female president of Argentina, after Isabel Martínez de Perón but, unlike Perón, was elected to the office, whereas Isabel Perón was elected Juan Perón's vice president, and automatically assumed the presidency on his death.[21] The transition from Néstor Kirchner to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was also the first time a democratic head of state was replaced by their spouse without the death of either. He remained highly influential during his wife's term,[23] supervising the economy and leading the PJ.[24] Their marriage has been compared with those of Juan and Eva Perón and Bill and Hillary Clinton.[25] Media observers suspected that Kirchner stepped down as president to circumvent the term limit, swapping roles with his wife.[24][25][26]

2011 presidential campaign

Kirchner on election night.

When Néstor Kirchner refused to run for re-election in 2007 and proposed Cristina Kirchner instead, it was rumored that the couple might attempt to run for the presidency in alternate elections, to circumvent the constitutional limit of a single re-election. The death of Néstor Kirchner in 2010 derailed such a plan.[27] She had a low positive image, below 30%.[27] On 21 June 2011, Cristina Kirchner announced she would run for a second term as president. A few days later, she announced that her economic minister Amado Boudou would run for vice-president on her ticket. This selection was an unexpected one, as Boudou usually acted like a rock star instead of a politician.[28] She personally chose most of the candidates for deputy in the Congress, favoring members of the Cámpora.

The elections took place on 23 October. She was re-elected with 54% of the vote, followed by socialist Hermes Binner, 37 points behind her. The opposition was divided between several candidates, and the perceived economic prosperity prevailed over voter's concerns about corruption and cronyism.[27] It was the largest victory percentage in national elections since 1983. The Peronist party also won eight of the nine elections for governor held that day, increased their number of senators, and obtained the majority in the chamber of deputies, including the number of legislators needed for quorum. The Kirchners had lost that majority in the 2009 elections. She invited children on stage during the celebrations, and Vice President Amado Boudou played an electric guitar. As she had in 2007, she gave a conciliatory speech.[29]

Presidency (2007–2015)

Domestic policy

Economic policy

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with the minister of economy Axel Kicillof.

When she first took office, Cristina Kirchner replaced the previous minister of economy, Miguel Gustavo Peirano, who had been appointed by her husband as former president. Peirano was succeeded by Martín Lousteau in December 2007. He served as the first of several ministers of economy under her presidency. The attempt to increase of taxes on agricultural exports caused a conflict with the agricultural sector and protests broke out. As a result, taxes were not increased, and Lousteau resigned by April 2008, only a few months after he had been appointed.[30] He was replaced by Argentina's tax agency chief Carlos Rafael Fernández.[30] As an alternative to increasing taxes, and facing debt payments the following year, the government nationalized private pension funds, known as "Las Administradoras de Fondos de Jubilaciones y Pensiones" (AFJP). The amount of money involved in this operation was nearly 30 billion dollars, and debt obligations were nearly 24 billion dollars.[31] The nationalization was justified by the president as government protectionism during the crisis, and compared with the bank bailouts in Europe and the United States. It was criticized as a threat to property rights and the rule of law.[31] Fernández resigned after the Kirchnerite defeat in the 2009 elections, and was replaced by Amado Boudou, president of the ANSES which had worked for that nationalization. Although inflation was nearing 25% and on the rise, Boudou did not consider it a significant problem.[32] In January 2010, Cristina Kirchner created the bicentennial fund employing a necessity and urgency decree in order to pay debt obligations with foreign-exchange reserves. Martín Redrado, president of the Central Bank, refused to implement it, and was fired by another decree.[33] Judge María José Sarmiento annulled both decrees on the grounds that the Central Bank was independent. Redrado resigned one month later, and was replaced by Mercedes Marcó del Pont.[34]

Kirchner was reelected in 2011, along with Amado Boudou as vice president. Hernán Lorenzino became the new minister of economy. The government established currency controls that limited the power to buy or sell foreign currencies, especially American dollars. Many Argentines kept their savings in dollars as a hedge against inflation. The government believed the controls were required to prevent the capital flight and tax evasion.[35] Axel Kicillof was appointed minister in 2013, and served for the remainder of Kirchner's term. He arranged payment of the debt to the Paris Club, and the compensation requested by Repsol for the nationalization of YPF.[36] One month later, negotiations with hedge funds failed, and American judge Thomas Griesa issued an order that Argentina had to pay to all creditors and not just those who had accepted a reduced payment as outlined in the Argentine debt restructuring plan.[37] Kicillof refused to agree that the country had fallen into a sovereign default.[38]

Energy policy

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces the bill to renationalize YPF.

In 2002, Eduardo Duhalde fixed the prices for public services such as electricity, gas, and water supply. These remained fixed during the terms of Duhalde and Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, despite the crisis that motivated them having ended. As the inflation rate grew during the period, the state financed part of these prices with subsidies. Investment in these areas decreased, and the generation and distribution networks suffered. Argentina lost its self-supply of energy, and had to import it, rather than being able to export surpluses.[39]

Kirchner proposed a fiscal austerity program in early 2012, including the gradual removal of subsidies.[40] The proposal turned out to be unpopular, and was not implemented. She opted instead to send a bill to Congress for the renationalization of YPF, privatized in 1993, blaming the Spanish company Repsol for the energy trade deficit. The bill was approved by the Chamber of Deputies by a 207-32 margin. It was criticized as an authoritarian move, as there was no negotiation with Repsol.[41] As well, the Vaca Muerta oil field had been discovered by this time. However, YPF was unable to afford the costs to exploit the oil at the site, and the rights to drill at Vaca Muerta were sold to the Chevron Corporation.[42] The costs of energy imports increased the trade deficit and the inflation rate, and power outages became frequent. Outages usually took place on the hottest days of the summer season, as the use of air conditioning increased electricity consumption to peak levels.[43]

Conflict with the agricultural sector

Road blockade during the 2008 Argentine government conflict with the agricultural sector in Villa María, Córdoba

In March 2008, Kirchner introduced a new sliding-scale taxation system for agricultural exports, so that rates fluctuated with international prices. This would effectively raise levies on soybean exports from 35% to 44% at the time of the announcement. This new taxation scheme, proposed by Minister Martín Lousteau, led to a nationwide lockout by farming associations, with the aim of forcing the government to back down on new tax system. They were joined on 25 March by thousands of pot-banging demonstrators massed around the Buenos Aires Obelisk and the presidential palace. These demonstrations were followed by others at locations across the country that included road blockades and food shortages.[44]

The protests were highly polarizing. The government argued that the new taxes would allow for a better redistribution of wealth, and keep down the food prices. It also claimed the farmers were staging a coup d'état against Kirchner.[45] Farmers argued that the high taxes made cultivation unviable.[44] The activist Luis D'Elía interrupted one of the demonstrations leading stick-wielding pro-government supporters, who attacked the participants.[44] Minister Lousteau resigned during the crisis, and the Peronist governors opted to negotiate on their own with the farmers, ignoring Kirchner's approach. Her public image plummeted to its lowest level since the election in October 2007.[46]

After four months of conflict, and having the majority in both houses of the Argentine Congress, the president introduced the new taxation bill. However, many legislators gave priority to the local agendas of their provinces as their economies depended heavily on agriculture. Many FPV legislators, such as Rubén Marín, opposed the bill. Marín argued: "For us, agriculture is the economy".[45] There were two demonstrations the day of the vote: one against the bill, attended by 235,000 people, and the other in support of the bill, attended by 100,000 people.[45] Farmers had announced that they would continue their demonstrations if the bill was approved without amendments.[44] Senator Emilio Rached from Santiago del Estero cast the vote that resulted in a 36–36 tie. In the case of a tie, the vice president, who also serves as president of the Senate but without the right to vote, is required to cast the tie-breaking vote. Julio Cobos voted against the bill, which was then rejected, saying that: "My vote is not in favor, my vote is against".[45] Despite the chilly relations between Cobos and Cristina Kirchner since that event, he completed his term as vice president.[47]

Other protests

200,000 people took part in a cacerolazo against Kirchner.

Kirchner was reelected in 2011. The Constitution of Argentina allows only one reelection. Many of her supporters proposed an amendment to the Constitution to allow indefinite reelections. Kirchner did not publicly support the proposal, but did not discourage or reject them either. The proposal was not taken to the Congress, as the FPV still lacked the required two-thirds majority to approve an amendment bill. It was rejected by many sectors of society. The first big demonstration (a cacerolazo) took place in September 2012. It was not called by specific politicians or social leaders, but by the public using social networks. The massive turnout was completely unexpected by both the government and the opposition.[48] People also protested the 2012 Buenos Aires rail disaster, the conflict between Kirchnerism and the media, rising crime rates, and the tight currency controls. Kirchner dismissed the demonstration, and said that she would continue working as before.[48] Most of the Kirchner loyalists, however, preferred simply to ignore the protest.[49]

A larger demonstration, the 8N, took place two months later. It was attended by nearly half-a-million people.[50] They protested a variety of issues such as those of the previous demonstration, as well as the growing rate of inflation and the corruption scandals. Kirchner promised to keep her policies unchanged, and Senator Aníbal Fernández dismissed the significance of the demonstrations.[50] Journalist Jorge Lanata explained the polarization was because the government and its supporters thought they were engaged in a revolution, and this justified being against freedom of the press and other public rights. Cabinet Chief Juan Manuel Abal Medina said the demonstrators belonged to a class that was against social justice, and compared the demonstrations to a coup d'états.[51] A similar view was held by Kirchner's loyalists.[49]

Buenos Aires and La Plata suffered floods in April, resulting in more than 70 deaths. Mayor Mauricio Macri pointed out that the national government had prevented the city from taking out international loans, which would have been used for infrastructure improvements.[52] A week later, Kirchner announced a proposed amendment of the Argentine judiciary. Three bills were controversial: the first proposed to limit injunctions against the state; the second would include people selected in national elections on the body that appoints or removes judges; the third would create a new court that would limit the number of cases heard by the Supreme Court. The opposition considered the bills an attempt to control the judiciary.[53] The 2013 season of the investigative journalism program Periodismo para todos revealed an ongoing case of political corruption involving Nestor Kirchner, called "The Route of the K-Money", which generated a huge political controversy.[54] This led to a new cacerolazo on 18 April, known as the 18A.[55]

Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who worked on the investigation of the 1994 Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) AMIA bombing, accused Kirchner of engaging in a criminal, cover-up conspiracy to cover up the attack. He was found dead in his home the day before he was to explain his denouncement in Congress. The unsolved case was highly controversial. The 18F demonstration took place a month after his death. It was organized as a silent demonstration, as an homage to Alberto Nisman, and was devoid of political flags or banners. The rule was followed, with occasional exceptions, by waves of spontaneous clapping or people singing the Argentine national anthem. The city police estimated that the demonstration was attended by 400,000 people.[56]

Corruption scandals

A financial firm located at the Madero Center hotel sparked The Route of the K-Money scandal.

Several scandals took place during the Kirchner administration. The first involved the detention of Venezuelan-American businessman Antonini Wilson in an airport after being found with a suitcase filled with $800,000. This money was illegally provided by Petróleos de Venezuela, the state oil company, to be used for Kirchner's 2007 general election campaign. Details of the case were explained by businessman Carlos Kauffmann and lawyer Moisés Maiónica, who pleaded guilty.[57] The FPV financing of the 2007 elections caused another scandal years later. Three pharmaceutical businessmen, Sebastián Forza, Damián Ferrón, and Leopoldo Bina, were found dead in 2008, a case known as the "Triple Crime". Further investigation of Forza, who contributed $200,000 to the campaign, identified him as a provider of ephedrine to the Sinaloa Cartel.[58] In 2015, Martín Lanatta and José Luis Salerno, convicted for the killings, claimed that Aníbal Fernández was the boss of a mafia ring that ordered those killings to secure the illegal traffic of ephedrine.[59] Fernández denied the charges, maintaining that it was a set up to undermine his chances in the 2015 general election.[59] General illegal drug trade grew in Argentina during Kirchnerism, and saw Mexican and Colombian syndicates working with Peruvian and Bolivian smugglers. Conviction rates for money laundering were almost nonexistent. Mariano Federici, head of the Financial Information Unit, said that: "The magnitude of the threat is very serious, and this would never have been possible without collaboration from government officials in this country".[60]

Amado Boudou, who served as minister of economy during Kirchner's first term and vice president during the second, was suspected of corruption in 2012 case. The Ciccone Calcografica printing company filed for bankruptcy in 2010, but this request was cancelled when businessman Alejandro Vandenbroele bought it. The company received tax breaks to pay its debts, and was selected to print banknotes of the Argentine peso. It is suspected that Vandenbroele is actually a frontman for Boudou, and that he employed his clout as minister of economy to benefit a company that actually belonged to him.[61]

The TV program Periodismo para todos broadcast information about The Route of the K-Money scandal. Businessman Leonardo Fariña said in an interview that he helped businessman Lázaro Báez to divert money from public works, and take it to a financial firm located in the Madero Center luxury hotel. This firm, informally known as "La Rosadita", would have sent the money abroad to tax havens, using shell companies. Given the amounts of money involved, the money was weighed instead of counted to determine the value. Federico Elaskar, owner of the firm, confirmed Fariña's claims in another interview. Both of them retracted their statements after the program was aired, but prosecutor José María Campagnoli confirmed their links with Báez. Báez denied any wrongdoing. Campagnoli was suspended as a prosecutor, accused of leaking information, and abusing his authority.[62] Báez is also linked with the Kirchners to the Hotesur scandal, a suspected case of money laundering. According to a criminal complaint by opposition deputy Margarita Stolbizer, his company Valle Mitre S.A. has rented 1,100 rooms per month, for years, at the Hotesur and Alto Calafate hotels, but without occupying them. Those hotels, located at the El Calafate city, belong to the Kirchners.[63]

Human rights policy

Cristina Kirchner with the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

The administration of Cristina Kirchner continued the trials of military personnel involved in the Dirty War, started by her husband.[4] There have been more than 500 people sentenced, and 1,000 convicted, in a process that was unprecedented in Latin America.[64] De facto president Jorge Rafael Videla, who was convicted and given a life sentence in 1985 and pardoned years later, received a new life sentence in 2010. General Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, who waged war against the leftist guerrillas in the northern Argentine provinces, received a life sentence as well.[65]

Another related investigation involved the fate of the children of captured pregnant guerrillas, who were given up for adoption by the military junta. An estimated 500 children were involved.[66] The investigation became controversial during the Kirchner administration, as those involved are now adults and some of them refused to participate in DNA testing. One of those cases was the Noble siblings case, involving the adopted sons of Ernestina Herrera de Noble, owner of the Clarín newspaper. The Kirchners advanced a bill in Congress to make the genetic testing of suspected victims mandatory. Although the measure had popular support, critics considered it a breach of the right to privacy, and politically motivated because of a dispute between Kirchner and the Clarín newspaper.[66] The Noble siblings tests in 2011 were negative,[64] and the case was closed in January 2016, after Kirchner left the presidency.[67] Hilario Bacca, a confirmed son of disappeared guerrillas, appealed a judicial ruling that sought to change his name, asking to keep the name he had been using.[68]

Relationship with the media

Kirchner holding a Clarín newspaper

It is estimated that the Kirchner government controlled nearly 80% of the Argentine media, either directly or indirectly.[69] TV Pública Digital, the state-owned TV channel, was turned into a government propaganda vehicle.[69] Soccer broadcasting was nationalized on the program Fútbol para todos, and then filled with pro-government advertisements.[70] On the other hand, the country's largest selling newspaper Clarín, published by the Clarín group, is not aligned with the government.[69]

The Kirchner government launched a campaign against the Clarín group, which included over 450 legal and administrative acts of harassment, as reported by the Global Editors Network. One of those actions was a selective use of state advertising, to benefit the media aligned with the government.[69]

The government tried to enforce a controversial media law that would see Clarín lose licenses and be forced to sell most of its assets. The law was initially sanctioned as a competition law for the media, but critics pointed out that it is only being used to further the campaign against Clarín.[69] The government had little interest in enforcing measures of the law that were not related to Clarín.[71] Clarín launched a constitutional challenge against some articles of the law with the judiciary. The government released an anti-Clarín advertisement claiming it refused to obey the law and may be subverting democracy.[72] The conflict led to disputes with the judiciary. Minister Julio Alak said that extending an injunction that allowed Clarín to keep its assets during the trial would be an insurrection, and it was rumored that judges who did not rule as the government wished might face impeachment. The court extended the inunction.[71]

Cristina Kirchner claims that journalistic objectivity does not exist, and that all journalists act on behalf of certain interests.[72] She also justified the lack of press conferences, arguing that it is not important for her administration.[72]

Anthony Mills, deputy director of the International Press Institute, compared the harassment against the press in Argentina with cases in Venezuela and Ecuador. He considered it unfortunate that the president disparaged journalism, and pointed that the freedom of the press may be declining in Argentina.[72]

Midterm elections

President Kirchner after the defeat at the 2009 midterm elections.

The 2009 midterm elections took place a year after the crisis with the farmers. The Kirchners were highly unpopular at the time, and people rejected their policies and governing style. The growing rates of inflation and crime also eroded their public support. Seeking to reverse their declining popularity, Néstor Kirchner led the list for deputy candidates at the Buenos Aires province. He was narrowly defeated by Francisco de Narváez, who led a Peronist faction opposed to the Kirchners. The Kirchners lost the majority of Congress as a result of the election.[73]

The Front for Victory recovered the majority in both chambers of the Congress during the 2011 presidential elections, when Cristina Kirchner was re-elected for a second term. The party had projects to amend the constitution and allow indefinite reelections, but lacked the supermajority required for it. A victory at the 2013 midterm elections would have given such majority, but the party was defeated in most provinces. Sergio Massa, a former cabinet minister of the Kirchners, won in the Buenos Aires Province by nearly 10 points with his new party, the Renewal Front. Argentina lacked a big opposition party since the collapse of the Radical Civic Union in 2001. Instead, Massa created an alternative party that also stood for Peronism.[74] However, the party still retained a simple majority in Congress. This election was the first one where teenagers from 16 to 18 could vote. President Kirchner, who had undergone brain surgery some weeks before, was hospitalized during the election and unable to join the campaign.[75]

Foreign policy

Cristina Kirchner among the presidents of the Union of South American Nations.

Kirchner was part of the "pink tide", a group of populist presidents who ruled several Latin American countries in the 2000s. This group included, among others: Néstor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina; Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil; Evo Morales in Bolivia. and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.[76] Kirchner has been an unconditional supporter of Chávez and Maduro. As Paraguay rejected the incorporation of Venezuela into the Mercosur trading bloc, she took advantage of the impeachment of Fernando Lugo to claim that Paraguay had suffered a coup d'état and proposed to temporarily remove the country from the bloc. With the support of the other presidents, Paraguay was removed for a time, and Venezuela was incorporated into the Mercosur.[77] She maintained her support of Venezuela even during the large 2014 Venezuela protests and the imprisonment of its leader, Leopoldo López.[78]

Kirchner had a rocky relationship with the United States. Several items from a US air force plane, such as drugs and GPS devices, were seized by Argentine officials, which caused a diplomatic crisis. US State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said that they were standard tools used in counter-terrorism tactics which were being taught to the Argentine police during the joint operation, and asked for the return of the seized materials.[79] Kirchner blamed the whole country for the 2014 default, ruled by US judge Thomas P. Griesa. She said in a cadena nacional ("national network") address that the US may be trying to oust her from power, or even assassinate her. She said this a few days after accusing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant of similar assassination plans against her. The idea was rejected by opposition leader Elisa Carrió as a mere conspiracy theory.[80]

The 30th anniversary of the Falklands War took place in 2012, and Kirchner increased the anti-British sentiment in her rhetoric, reiterating the Argentine claims in the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute.[81] British Prime minister David Cameron rejected her comments.[82] Relations were also strained by recent oil explorations in the area, and Kirchner threatened to sue Rockhopper Exploration for it.[83] The Falklands Islands celebrated a sovereignty referendum in 2013, where 99.8% voted to remain a British territory, with only three votes against.[84] Kirchner ignored the referendum.[84]

When Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio was elected as Pope Francis, the initial reactions were mixed. Most of Argentine society cheered it, but the pro-government newspaper Página/12 published renewed allegations about the Dirty War, and the president of the National Library described a global conspiracy theory. The president took more than an hour to congratulate him, and only did so in a passing reference within a routine speech. However, due to the Pope's popularity in Argentina, Kirchner made what the political analyst Claudio Fantini called a "Copernican shift" in her relations with him and fully embraced the Francis phenomenon.[85] On the day before his inauguration as pope, Bergoglio, now Francis, had a private meeting with Kirchner. They exchanged gifts and lunched together. This was the new pope's first meeting with a head of state, and there was speculation that the two were mending their relations.[86][87] Página/12 removed their controversial articles about Bergoglio, written by Horacio Verbitsky, from their web page, as a result of this change.[88]

Argentina suffered a terrorist attack in 1994, the AMIA bombing targeting a Buenos Aires Jewish center, that killed 85 people and wounded 300. The investigation remained open for years, and prosecutor Alberto Nisman was appointed to the case. He accused Iran of organizing the attack, and the Hezbollah group of carrying it out. He intended to prosecute five Iranian officials, including former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, but Argentina signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran for a joint investigation. Nisman accused the president of signing that memorandum for oil and trade benefits, according to hundreds of hours of wiretaps. On 19 January 2015 he was found dead at his home, a day before a congressional hearing to explain his accusation, which caused a great controversy. As of 2016, both the cases of the AMIA bombing and the death of Nisman remain unresolved, and the courts have declined to investigate his denouncement of Kirchner.[89]


Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires, was elected president in the 2015 presidential elections, defeating the Kirchnerite candidate Daniel Scioli in a ballotage. During the transition period, Macri reported that Kirchner was creating obstacles and problems in an attempt to undermine his government. She changed the 2016 budget, increasing spending in several areas (even the broadcasting of soccer matches), despite the huge fiscal deficit. A number of Kirchnerite officials refused to resign their offices to allow Macri to appoint his own people.[90] Even the handover ceremony became controversial, as Kirchner refused to attend it. It was the first time since the end of military rule in 1983 that the outgoing president did not hand over power to the incoming one.[91]

Cristina Kirchner faced several charges in court after leaving office. One of those concerned the sale of dollar futures at very low prices near the end of her term of office. This became a problem during Macri's presidency. The operation was carried out by the Central Bank, but judge Claudio Bonadio believes Kirchner is the instigator. Kirchner is also being investigated for her role in "The Route of the K-Money" scandal. A million dollars of her assets is frozen while Bonadio investigates the case. She took advantage of the hearing to organize her first political rally since leaving power.[92] Lázaro Báez who has close ties with the Kirchners was detained in April 2016 as it was suspected that he might flee escape.[93] José López, an official from the ministry of public works, was detained while trying to hide bags filled with millions in cash at a monastery.[94]

Public image

Cristina Kirchner is considered to be a populist leader[95] and, like other contemporary populists in Latin America, built a system of propaganda to legitimize her actions: the Relato K. This propaganda works around a number of usual themes: the glorification of the state to the detriment of the individual rights; use of conspiracy theories to explain mistakes as attacks from others; blaming neoliberalism for the poverty; and glorification of democracy while keeping it just in its procedural form.[96] The political world is divided in two halves, the people and those against the people, with the Kirchners described as the saviors of the people. Under this vision, the people are treated like a homogeneous group, with a unified collective will, that the leader interprets beyond the boundaries of parliaments and parties. Kirchnerite writer Ernesto Laclau considers this the perfect form of democracy.[97] This division is used to justify the rejection of those described as being against the people, and to polarize the population.[98] The problems caused by her policies, such as inflation, are always explained as the result of class conflict and imperialism.[99][100] Economic activity is described as a zero-sum game, where any wealth is the result of the exploitation of someone else, which justifies economic interventionism.[101] Kirchner's victory in the 2011 election was used to justify authoritarian policies, as those policies would be the general will; opposition and criticism was often described as antidemocratic or even as the plotting of a coup d'état.[102] Laclau's vision of the people has been criticized by other writers because it left little room for opposition or criticism, and because the citizen is actually reduced to a mere spectator unable to contest government policies.[103]

Forbes magazine ranked her as thirteenth in the list of the 100 most powerful women in the world in 2008, at the start of her presidency.[104] By 2014, she was listed 19th.[105]

Following the death of her husband, she dressed in black for over three years.[106]

Personal life

In 1973, during her studies at the National University of La Plata, she met her future spouse, Néstor Kirchner. They were married on 9 May 1975 and had two children: Máximo (1977) and Florencia (1990).[7] Néstor Kirchner died on 27 October 2010 after suffering a heart attack.[107]


Secretary Alfredo Scoccimarro announces that Kirchner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Kirchner's health first became a topic of public concern in 2005 when Noticias magazine reported that she might suffer from bipolar disorder. Journalist Franco Lindner interviewed the psychiatrist who treated her without revealing his name. Journalist Nelson Castro investigated further and discovered that the psychiatrist was Alejandro Lagomarsino, who died in 2011.[108] Lagomarsino was the leading specialist in the treatment of bipolar disorder in Argentina.[109] Castro's investigation revealed that Kirchner was treated by Lagomarsino for a short period. He could not determine the length of her treatment or the medicine she received, or whether another psychiatrist continued treating her or not.[110] Castro considers that some of her outlandish phrases or projects, and her frequent periods of hiding from public view, may be explained by the disorder's periods of mania and depression, as well as being a regular political strategy.[111][112] Eduardo Duhalde said that Néstor Kirchner once confided in him that she had a bipolar disorder, while she was having a violent outburst.[113] During the United States diplomatic cables leak it was revealed that Hillary Clinton questioned Kirchner's mental health and asked the US embassy whether she was receiving treatment or not;[114] she later apologized to Kirchner for those leaks.[115] Kirchner said in her book La Presidenta that it was all a misunderstanding; it is her sister who suffers from bipolar disorder.[116]

On 27 December 2011, presidential spokesman Alfredo Scoccimaro announced that Kirchner had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer on 22 December and that she would undergo surgery on 4 January 2012. The standard procedure in these operations is to expose the thyroid gland so that a pathologist can take a sample, analyze it looking for carcinogenic cells, and then decide whether it needs to be removed. In Kirchner's case, this step was omitted and the gland was removed directly.[117] After the operation, it was revealed that she had been misdiagnosed and did not have cancer.[118] On 5 October 2013, doctors ordered Kirchner to rest for a month after they found blood on her brain caused by a head injury she received on 8 August 2012.[119] She was re-admitted to hospital and had successful surgery on 8 October 2013 to remove blood from under a membrane covering her brain.[120]



Foreign honours



  1. She is variously known as Cristina Fernández,[3][4] Cristina K,[5] or Cristina.[4]



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  109. Castro, p. 48
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  116. Castro, p. 39
  117. Castro, p. 61
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  121. 1 2 3 El origen gallego de C.F.K. The Galician origin of C.F.K.
  122. Cristina Kirchner dijo sentir envidia de la Furia Roja "España no es un país cualquiera: tres de mis cuatro abuelos son españoles y para todos los argentinos hay un lazo especial". Three of my grandparents are Spanish
  123. "Ofelia Wilhelm, la madre de Cristina, de empleada estatal a jubilada VIP".
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  126. "Dilma Rousseff se emocionó al condecorar a Cristina con la "Orden del Sur de Brasil"" [Dilma Rousseff became emotional when she condecorated Cristina with the Brazilian "Order of the Southern Cross"] (in Spanish). Los Andes. July 17, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  127. "Condecoraron a Cristina Kirchner en Ecuador" [Cristina Kirchner was condecorated in Ecuador] (in Spanish). La Nación. September 29, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  128. "Cristina encabezará un acto en el que recibirá la condecoración de Palestina" [Cristina led an event where she will receive the Star of Palestine] (in Spanish). Minuto Uno. August 12, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  129. "President García awards the Order of the Sun to Argentinean head of state". Peruvian Times. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  130. Edith Pardo San Martín (February 11, 2009). "Las gaffes protocolares de la gira" [The diplomatic mistakes of the tour] (in Spanish). La Nación. Retrieved October 20, 2016.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Hilda de Duhalde
First Lady of Argentina
Succeeded by
Néstor Kirchner
as First Gentleman of Argentina
Political offices
Preceded by
Néstor Kirchner
President of Argentina
Succeeded by
Mauricio Macri
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