Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s vice-president and a towering figure from the Latin American political left, has been convicted of corruption in a case that has divided public opinion, with her supporters vowing to paralyse the country in protest.
A three-judge panel delivered the guilty verdict in Buenos Aires on Tuesday that is likely to embolden Fernández de Kirchner’s base ahead of the October 2023 presidential race, possibly providing a symbolic boost to the ruling Peronist party amid runaway inflation and a battered economy.
Prosecutors handed Fernández de Kirchner a six-year prison sentence and a lifetime ban from public office on fraud charges. She was among a dozen others charged with defrauding the state.
Kirchner, known in Argentina as Cristina, has claimed that she is a victim of political persecution by a “media judicial firing squad,” and has called on her supporters to defend her.
Before the verdict, some Kirchner allies had already mobilised in her defence. Crowds blocked several roads in downtown Buenos Aires on Tuesday afternoon, with further protests expected Wednesday in the capital.
As both vice-president and head of the Senate, the 69-year old has legal protections and is unlikely to face jail time. Under Argentine law, her right to serve and run for public office remains until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted. Further proceedings could drag on for another six years, according to legal experts.
Kirchner faces multiple prosecutions for corruption over events from her presidency. Of the cases brought against her in recent years, four have been dropped, while five remain.