Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has defended her economic policy in her last speech to Congress before stepping down later this year. She said Argentina was the only country in the world to have reduced its national debt.
The president also said that she regretted the death of state prosecutor Alberto Nisman in mysterious circumstances in January. He had accused her of a cover-up over a bomb attack on a Jewish centre in 1994. Mr. Nisman alleged that the president and her foreign minister shielded Iranian officials from prosecution for involvement in the bombing of a Jewish Centre in which 85 people were killed.
‘Shame for all Argentines’
President Fernandez made her three-hour speech - with thousands of her supporters outside parliament - after a judge on Friday dismissed the allegations that Mr. Nisman had made.
She touched briefly on the allegations while addressing the opening session of Congress. The accusations were a “shame for all Argentines,” she said, while dismissing signs held up by opposition lawmakers calling for justice to be done over the bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (Amia) - which took place 13 years before she came to power.
“Don’t come talking to me about Amia,” the president said. “Twenty-one years have passed [since the bombing] and not a single person has been convicted, not a single one sent to jail.”
Correspondents say that Ms. Fernandez’s speech sought to seize the spotlight from a mass rally last month in memory of Mr. Nisman. They say she is battling to save her reputation and her legacy during the few remaining months she has before leaving office on 10 December.
In her opening comments, she reminded her supporters of Argentina’s legal battle against hedge fund creditors. Using rhetoric popular with her cheering supporters outside Congress, she said the “vultures” that had bought Argentine defaulted debt cheaply and demanded full payment were “internationally recognised bloodsuckers.”
Last year a long-drawn out lawsuit in a New York Federal court had forced Argentina into default. President Fernandez suggested Argentina had been victorious in its struggle to reduce debt left from its 2001 economic crisis. “Argentina is the only country in the world that has reduced its external debt,” she said. “Never again will governments have to take out debt to pay debt.”
Her comments were criticised by the opposition in Congress for not mentioning Argentina’s high inflation and low levels of foreign investment. Ms. Fernandez also announced the nationalisation of the railway network after a long series of train accidents and controversies in recent years.