BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez and the first lady on Monday paid a fine of three million pesos (about $24,000), in the form of a charitable donation, in return for legal proceedings against them being dropped over a birthday dinner during the pandemic lockdown that caused a scandal.
A federal judge approved the president’s “economic compensation” proposal, in which he will pay 1.6 million pesos to a prestigious vaccine research institute, the Malbran Institute.
His partner, Fabiola Yanez, offered a donation of 1.4 million, which was also approved.
Prosecutors opened an investigation last year over suspected breaches of health protocols by the center-left leader, after leaked photos showed a birthday dinner for the first lady being hosted in July 2020 at the Quinta de Olivos, an official residence of the president in the Buenos Aires suburbs.
At that time, the capital was subject to a strict COVID-19 lockdown, with a ban on all gatherings — even for funerals.
A contrite Fernandez, himself a professor of criminal law, had pleaded that it was “not a malicious act, but recklessness and negligence,” calling it an “error, a slippage” in the context of a “pandemic management maelstrom.”
The prosecutors symbolically fixed the reparations at the cost of a respiratory machine and a stay in intensive care.
According to some local media, the 63-year-old head of state will have to take out a bank loan in order to be able to pay the fine.
The publication of a photo of the dinner, with a dozen guests, had triggered a deluge of criticism in the pandemic-hit country, and elicited rebukes from both Fernandez’s own party as well as the opposition.