Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Born:February 19, 1953 (age 69)
Career:President of Argentina, 2007-2015
First lady of Argentina, 2003-2007
National senator of Argentina, 2005-2007
National deputy of Argentina, 1997-2001
Education:National University of La Plata

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is an Argentine lawyer and politician who, in 2007, served as president of Argentina from December 2007 to December 2015. She was the second woman to serve as president of Argentina (after Isabel Martínez de Perón, 1974 to 1976), the first directly elected female president and the first woman re-elected. She succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner, who served as president from 2003 to 2007.

Fernández de Kirchner was born February 19, 1953, in La Plata, Argentina. She attended the National University of La Plata and married Kirchner in 1975. One year later, after the military junta seized control of Argentina, the couple fled La Plata for his hometown of Río Gallegos in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz. There they opened a law practice and, with the return of democracy in 1983, became active in electoral politics. Fernández de Kirchner was a provincial delegate to the Justicialist (Peronist) Party (PJ) convention in 1985 and was later elected to the provincial legislature. Her husband won election as mayor of Río Gallegos in 1987, and in 1991, Fernández de Kirchner became First Lady of Santa Cruz when her husband was elected to the first of three consecutive four-year terms as provincial governor.

Fernández de Kirchner twice represented Santa Cruz in the Argentine Senate (1995 to 1997, 2001 to 2005). She also served in the Chamber of Deputies from 1997 to 2001. She was one of the PJ's most vocal critics of the administration of President Carlos Menem, voting frequently against his legislative initiatives. Her husband assumed the presidency on May 25, 2003, after Menem—facing a certain loss to Kirchner in a second-round runoff—withdrew from that year's presidential race.

In 2005, Kirchner was in a struggle with former president Eduardo Duhalde for control of the PJ in the crucial province of Buenos Aires, where 38 percent of the Argentine population resided. The struggle peaked in October when Fernández de Kirchner squared off against Duhalde's spouse, Hilda González de Duhalde, in the Buenos Aires province senatorial election. In that contest, Fernández de Kirchner won 46 percent of the vote, easily defeating González de Duhalde, who claimed just 20 percent of the vote. While the high-profile victory helped her husband win acknowledgment as the undisputed leader of Peronism, it also reaffirmed Fernández de Kirchner's growing political influence and helped insulate her against charges of inexperience during her own run for the presidency in 2007.

In 2007, Kirchner decided not to run for re-election, and Fernández de Kirchner began campaigning for the presidency. She held a commanding lead in the polls, and in the October election, she captured 45 percent of the final presidential vote tally, nearly double that of her closest competitor, Elisa Carrió, who garnered 23 percent of the vote. Fernández de Kirchner formally assumed office on December 10, 2007, to begin a four-year term. Almost immediately, she encountered criticism from the United States, which claimed it had intercepted campaign funds sent from the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez.

President Fernández de Kirchner imposed a new tax system to significantly increase export taxes on grains in an attempt to control Argentine food prices. Her actions were met with large-scale strikes and protests by farmers' unions throughout the country, who complained that the increase would reduce their profits. The increase in taxes was approved by the Chamber of Deputies, but was rejected by the Argentine Senate by one vote. In the midterm legislative elections held in June 2009, the president's ruling coalition lost power in both houses of Congress. The results reflected her declining popularity as well as that of her husband, who lost his race for a congressional seat.

The Kirchners rebounded from this setback, thanks to a fragmented opposition and a booming economy. Fernández de Kirchner pursued popular social programs, and, in July 2010, she signed legislation that made Argentina the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage. Her husband was regarded as a likely candidate in the 2011 presidential election, but his sudden death in October 2010 triggered widespread sympathy for Fernández de Kirchner, and she campaigned for re-election in his stead. On October 23, 2011, almost a year to the day after her husband's death, Fernández de Kirchner won a landslide victory and secured a second term as Argentina's president, and her ruling party reclaimed its majority in Congress.

Photo by Victor Bugge.