Cristina Kirchner ordered to stand trial for the first time in series of corruption and mismanagement cases

Harriet Alexander
Cristina Kirchner, who ruled Argentina from 2007 to 2015 - This content is subject to copyright.

Argentina’s former president has been ordered to stand trial, in the first of several cases against the divisive ex-leader.

Cristina Kirchner, who stood down in December 2015 after two consecutive terms, will face trial on charges of financial mismanagement.

The 64-year-old leftist firebrand is accused of ordering the central bank to sell dollar futures at artificially low prices, causing Argentina to lose hundreds of millions. She denies wrongdoing, and her supporters insist that the charges are politically motivated.

The judge leading the case, Claudio Bonadio, is an outspoken critic of Ms Kirchner, whose Socialist rule was loved and loathed in equal measure.

Cristina Kirchner profile

Her tenure was marked by a push to reduce poverty, but saw the country become a financial pariah.

Mr Bonadio ordered a court to set a date for her trial, in a ruling released by the High Court's Judicial Information Center.

He also called to trial Ms Kirchner's former economy minister Axel Kicillof and Alejandro Vanoli, who was head of the central bank at the time, on the same charges. A further 12 defendants face trial as alleged accomplices. And her vice president, Amado Boudo, is currently being tried for corruption.

Ms Kirchner is also facing separate investigations into corruption. In December another judge, Julian Ercolini, approved her trial for alleged illicit association and administrative fraud. The case is connected to infrastructure projects awarded to a company owned by Lazaro Baez, a close associate now in prison.

She took to Twitter to defend herself against the accusations, claiming that charges of illicit association were used “by all the dictatorships to persecute opposition leaders”.

She said Judge Ercolini was a “mouthpiece” for the justice minister of her successor, Mauricio Macri.

And Mr Macri is facing his own woes.

Profile | Mauricio Macri

The centre-right leader, a former president of Boca Juniors whose property interests saw him hold business meetings with Donald Trump, is under investigation by prosecutors for alleged conflicts of interest linked to his family's business affairs.

Last year the so-called "Panama Papers" tax haven leaks revealed he had links to an offshore company. He has denied wrongdoing in all the cases.

He is also currently confronted by protests against his financial reforms, which have seen thousands take to the street – including masses of teachers on Wednesday.

And the platform given to Ms Kirchner through her multiple court appearances has energised her followers – whipped up by her continuous twitter coverage of the complaints against Mr Macri’s rule.

A poll released on Sunday showed that for the first time since he took office in December 2015, more Argentines disapprove of his performance than approve.

He was elected after more than a decade of populist rule left Argentina with rampant inflation, dwindling central bank reserves and a wide fiscal deficit. 

However, his reforms – including cuts to home heating subsidies and other fiscal belt tightening - have started taking a political toll, even as the economy climbs out of recession.

The country's largest labour union has called a general strike for April 6.

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