Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Tuesday criticised Argentina’s Supreme Court for its decision to rule in favour of Buenos Aires City in an ongoing federal revenue-sharing row with the national government.
Speaking at an event marking the inauguration of a new sports centre named after Diego Maradona in Avellaneda, the former head of state backed President Alberto Fernández’s national government in the tax-sharing row, describing the top court’s decision as “unlawful.”
"The court ignored a law, we are in a moment in which a law is suspended,” said Fernández de Kirchner in a highly anticipated speech.
It’s “an unusual thing,” she charged, “because the only one who can suspend a law is Congress, which is the one that sanctions it. The Judiciary can only declare it unconstitutional and not apply it, but suspending it is impossible," said the vice-president, who was joined onstage by local mayor Jorge Ferraresi.
Fernández de Kirchner said that Argentina is “facing an unlawful act, as if the rule of law had disappeared.”
Argentina’s Supreme Court last week rejected an appeal by Fernández’s government in a long-running dispute over the breakdown of funds brought in by federal taxes. Favouring the opposition-controlled government of Buenos Aires City, the nation’s highest tribunal ruled that the capital – the wealthiest region in the country – should have its share of federal funds boosted to 2.95 percent, upholding an injunction filed by Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta’s government. It also ruled that the substantive issue should be postponed until March.
President Fernández said at the time that she would not comply with the ruling because she considered it "incongruent and impossible to comply with.” However, he announced earlier this week that he would comply with the request in the form of bonds, albeit while slamming what he described as "a political ruling in an election year."
The so-called “co-participation funds” come from taxes collected at a federal level and are distributed among the 24 districts, i.e. the 23 provinces plus the autonomous city of Buenos Aires, where 2.8 million of the country’s 47-million-strong population lives.
In 2020, a year after taking office, Fernández’s Peronist government decreed during the coronavirus pandemic that City Hall’s share of federal funds should be trimmed from 3.5 percent to 2.32 percent. With the help of Congress, the figure was later cut to the lower figure of 1.4 percent.
In January 2016, then-president Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), who previously served as Buenos Aires City mayor (2007-2015), raised the capital’s share of funds from 1.4 per cent to 3.75 per cent, a percentage that was lowered to 3.5 percent the following year.
Macri justified the move by the need to compensate for a planned increase in spending due to the transfer of the control of the Federal Police to City Hall, but critics said it was an attempt to strengthen the opposition’s hold on the capital and favour his ally.
Anti-government politicians, meanwhile, see the move as an attempt to weaken Rodríguez Larreta, who wants to be the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition’s presidential candidate in the October 2023 elections.
In her speech to supporters, Fernández de Kirchner reiterated her intention not to run for office in next year’s general elections.
She described that decision as “neither resignation nor self-exclusion,” saying the courts were attempting to ban her from politics thanks to a policy of “proscription.”
Earlier this month, the 69-year-old was sentenced to six years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding political office following her conviction in the so-called ‘Vialidad’ case investigating alleged corruption in the awarding of public works projects dating back to her 2007-2015 spell as president.
Fernández de Kirchner denies the allegations against her and says the multiple court cases against her are evidence of a campaign of “political and judicial persecution” against her seeking to destroy her political legacy and future.
"I did not resign [any candidacy]," she said in her speech. "I announced that I was not going to submit our political force to having to put up as a candidate someone who was told that she was condemned."
The conviction still has to be appealed several times before it becomes final, a process that could take years. Fernández de Kirchner, who also serves as the head of the Senate, enjoys immunity from prosecution until December 2023.
Opposition leaders lashed out at the vice-president after the speech.
The head of PRO, Patricia Bullrich, said: "Cristina has shown that she lives in the past and that she has nothing to give to Argentines for the future."
In the same vein, national deputy María Eugenia Vidal declared on Twitter: "You are not banned, you are convicted of defrauding the state, Cristina Kirchner."