President Alberto Fernández presented himself before a federal judge on Thursday in the wake of a growing scandal around a birthday party hosted at the height of a pandemic lockdown.
Less than a month before a primary midterm vote, Fernández offered to donate half of his next four pay cheques to an Argentine health institute as a penalty for his actions. He penned a document to the judge after a federal prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation into the matter.
In July 2020, Fernández hosted a birthday party for First Lady Fabiola Yáñez during the height of a strict, stay-at-home quarantine. A photo from the party surfaced this month, sparking public outcry. Fernández initially said he lamented what happened, but noted that Yáñez planned the party. Videos from the gathering later became public too.
“As I’ve expressed publicly, I assumed total responsibility for what happened in the Olivos residence,” Fernández wrote in the court document, alluding to the presidential compound outside of Buenos Aires.
But Fernández argued that “before the absence of a detrimental outcome,” from the party, the president proposed to the judge that he consider “the penal insignificance (not moral or social) of the condemned behaviour.”
While it’s unlikely Fernández will be convicted of a crime, his plea to the judge outlines the extent of damage control his coalition has undertaken ahead of the midterm elections. Polls showed Fernandez’s public image suffered as a result of the party scandal, but it’s unclear if voters will punish his coalition’s lawmakers over it.
Argentina holds a primary midterm vote on September 12 and the general vote on November 14.
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg