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Argentina’s leader goes to court to back vice president

February 15, 2022 GMT
A worker flashes a victory sign, representing the Peronist Party, from a scaffolding as he paints a mural of former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, the late husband of current Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on a government building near the federal court in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. At the court, current Argentine President Alberto Fernandez made an unusual court appearance to defend his vice president — and former chief — calling allegations of corruption during her term as head of state “a sort of fantasy.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A worker flashes a victory sign, representing the Peronist Party, from a scaffolding as he paints a mural of former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, the late husband of current Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on a government building near the federal court in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. At the court, current Argentine President Alberto Fernandez made an unusual court appearance to defend his vice president — and former chief — calling allegations of corruption during her term as head of state “a sort of fantasy.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A worker flashes a victory sign, representing the Peronist Party, from a scaffolding as he paints a mural of former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, the late husband of current Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on a government building near the federal court in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. At the court, current Argentine President Alberto Fernandez made an unusual court appearance to defend his vice president — and former chief — calling allegations of corruption during her term as head of state “a sort of fantasy.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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A worker flashes a victory sign, representing the Peronist Party, from a scaffolding as he paints a mural of former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, the late husband of current Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on a government building near the federal court in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. At the court, current Argentine President Alberto Fernandez made an unusual court appearance to defend his vice president — and former chief — calling allegations of corruption during her term as head of state “a sort of fantasy.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
1 of 5
A worker flashes a victory sign, representing the Peronist Party, from a scaffolding as he paints a mural of former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, the late husband of current Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on a government building near the federal court in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. At the court, current Argentine President Alberto Fernandez made an unusual court appearance to defend his vice president — and former chief — calling allegations of corruption during her term as head of state “a sort of fantasy.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentine President Alberto Fernandez made an unusual court appearance on Tuesday to defend his vice president — and former chief — calling allegations of corruption during her term as head of state “a sort of fantasy.”

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is accused of arbitrarily funneling money for a provincial highway project to a company linked to a family friend during her presidential term from 2007 to 2015.

Current President Fernández testified that he was “unaware” of any such action and called the idea “a sort of fantasy that you gather two or three people here and say, ‘Send the money to somebody.’”

“I want to tell you that in fact it is impossible for that to happen. That is what draws my attention in this trial,” the president said.

The former president herself has denied the charges and calls the trial a persecution launched by conservative former President Mauricio Macri, who was in office between her term and that of the current president.

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Fernández served as chief of staff both to Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor Néstor Kirchner — a post that involved signing off on public works projects. When Fernández became president in 2019, his former boss became his vice president. They are not related.

He insisted that “there was no arbitrary distribution” of funds in the case and said it would be “very difficult” to do such a thing in provinces, which are fighting over spending priorities by the national legislature.

Fernández de Kirchner and other former officials and businesspeople are on trial in a Buenos Aires court. They face charges of criminal association to illegally funnel about $400 million in public funds through a personal friend of the then-president’s family for transportation projects in the Kirchners’ home province of Santa Cruz between 2003 and 2015.

Néstor Kirchner, was president during the first part of that period.

The current president said he didn’t know the accused businessman, Lázaro Báez well, though he said they spoke one time years ago.

The president could have offered written testimony, but chose to appear in person, a gesture interpreted as backing for his vice president at a moment when the two have been publicly in disagreement over negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

Fernández said no president can be up to date on the details of all public works projects in the country.