Who is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner?
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is an Argentine lawyer and politician who served as the President of Argentina from 2007 to 2015. She was the second woman to serve as President of Argentina, and the first directly elected female president. Her husband Néstor Kirchner had served as president from 2003 to 2007, and she succeeded him to the post when he left the office. A graduate of the National University of La Plata, she embarked on a legal career. Even though she sympathized with the Peronist Youth during her university studies, she was not engaged in any notable political activism as a young woman. She ventured into politics in the late 1980s when she was elected to the Santa Cruz Provincial Legislature in 1989. Her political career thrived in the 1990s and she was elected to represent Santa Cruz in the Senate. During this time her husband’s political career was also on the rise and she helped him in his successful campaign for the presidency in 2003. As the First Lady of the country, she also worked as an itinerant ambassador for the government. Néstor Kirchner refused to run for re-election in 2007 and proposed Cristina Kirchner instead who successfully won the presidential election and assumed office in December 2007.
Childhood & Early Life
Cristina Elisabet Fernández was born on 19 February 1953 in La Plata, Argentina, to Eduardo Fernandez, a bus driver, and Ofelia Esther Wilhelm.
She studied law at the National University of La Plata during the 1970s. It was here that she met Néstor Kirchner who she would later marry in 1975. As a student she became a part of the Peronist Youth movement though she did not participate in any notable political activism.
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The 1970s was a period of political chaos in Argentina. The then-president Isabel Peron was deposed by the 1976 Argentine coup d'état and the military junta seized control of Argentina. During this time Cristina Kirchner and her husband left La Plata for Río Gallegos where they worked as lawyers.
Democracy in Argentina was restored in 1983 and Cristina began her political career later the same decade. Kirchner was a provincial delegate to the Justicialist (Peronist) Party (PJ) convention in 1985. Her husband also became a successful politician during this time.
She was elected to the Santa Cruz Provincial Legislature in 1989, a position to which she was re-elected in 1993. She was elected to represent Santa Cruz in the Senate in 1995 and to the Chamber of Deputies in 1997. She returned to the Senate in 2001.
By this time Nestor Kirchner was very well established in his career and was aiming for presidency. Cristina helped in her husband’s presidency campaigns but without making public appearances. Her husband was successfully installed the President of Argentina in May 2003.
Cristina became the First Lady and also served as an itinerant ambassador for her husband’s government. She was often compared to former First Lady Eva Perón, second wife of former President Juan Perón due to her style of speech.
In 2007 Néstor Kirchner refused to run for re-election and proposed Cristina instead. She began a determined campaign and emerged successful to be sworn in as the President of Argentina on 10 December 2007. She was the second female president of Argentina, after Isabel Martínez de Perón, and the first one to be elected to the office.
She introduced a new sliding-scale taxation system for agricultural exports, effectively raising levies on soybean exports from 35% to 44% in 2008. This greatly agitated the farmers, leading to a nationwide lockout by farming associations. The country erupted into a series of violent protests and it took quite some time to get back to normalcy. This incident affected her popularity though she managed to rebound from that setback.
In 2009, she launched a universal child benefit plan for fighting poverty with the aim of reaching approximately five million children and youths. The program was a success which helped to reduce poverty and boost school attendance rates.
In 2010, her administration completed the debt swap which had been started by her husband Néstor Kirchner in 2005, clearing 92% of the bad debt left from its sovereign default of 2001. The same year, she gave a speech at the International Trade Union Confederation (CSI) Global Summit, held in Vancouver, Canada.
In a bid to build good relations with other Latin American countries, she made a historic trip to Peru in March 2010 and attended the bicentenary of the independence celebrations in Venezuela in April. She also signed 25 trade agreements with Venezuela relating to food, technology and energy.
She stood for re-election in 2011 and was once again successful. Her second term as the president proved to be more challenging. She did not have much success in controlling the rising inflation which was threatening the Argentine economy.
There were also several allegations of corruption and political scandals during her tenure including cases of crony capitalism, falsification of public statistics, harassment of Argentina's independent media, and use of the tax agency as a censorship tool.
Prohibited by the constitution from running for another term in the 2015 presidential election, she stepped down from the office on 10 December 2015.
As the president she launched a universal child benefit plan in October 2009 as a way to fight poverty with the goal of reaching approximately five million children and youths. The program resulted in an increase in school attendance and helped to reduce poverty.
Awards & Achievements
In 2010, Peruvian President Alan García awarded the country’s highest accolade, the Order of the Sun, to Cristina Kirchner, during her visit to Peru.
Personal Life & Legacy
While studying at the National University of La Plata she met Néstor Kirchner who she married in 1975. The couple had two children: Máximo and Florencia. Her husband died in 2010.