Douglas Farah, Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center
ABSTRACT: Under the corrupt populist administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner Argentina is on the road back to ruin.
Argentina’s flamboyant president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was indignant
when, during a U.S. tour last year, a student at Harvard asked her how her personal wealth had grown more than 900 percent in less than a decade. “I don’t know where you get those figures, but that is not how it is,” the president responded. But the figures come from Kirchner’s own public disclosures of wealth, mandated by law. As a recent analysis showed, her declared personal declared fortune has increased from $1.6 million in 2003, when her late husband Néstor Kirchner was elected president, to $18 million by the end of 2012, a year into her second presidential term – more than 1,00 percent. The vast bulk of the declared growth in assets, using valuations of properties far below market value, came in 2008, shortly after Cristina took office. That year her wealth jumped from $5.2 million to $12.7 million, and continued to grow in the ensuing years.The salaries of the president and her late husband Néstor, who preceded her as president, amounted to less than 4 percent of her wealth.1 Such is Argentina in the time of Fernández de Kirchner, where official obfuscation political allies with lucrative business opportunities, often at the expense of foreign investors whose properties have been expropriated in violation of international agreements. As one report noted Corruption watchers complain that her government has neutered government oversight, giving auditing posts to cronies compromised by conflicts of interest. The result: corruption cases take an average of 14 years to work through the system, according to the non-profit Center for the Study and Prevention of Economic Crimes, and only 15 in 750 cases have led to convictions.2 Although her husband promised a new era of transparency in Argentina, both he and Fernández de Kirchner have fired aggressive prosecutors and gutted the anticorruption watchdog agency, a trend that the U.S. Embassy regularly commented on as a serious concern.3 The Embassy noted that while Manuel Garrido, the top attorney in the national prosecutor’s office investigating official corruption, launched more than 100 investigations into official corruption from 2004-2009, he failed to gain even a single conviction. Many of the investigations were aimed at close Kirchner associates, from cabinet ministers to public works administrators.4