BUENOS AIRES: Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner on Thursday urged her country to ditch its debt repayment agreement with the IMF, as she led a rally in Buenos Aires ahead of presidential elections later this year.

The veteran politician, who was convicted last year of fraud, headlined the gathering promoting the Frente de Todos (Everyone’s Front) coalition, to which she and President Alberto Fernandez belong.

Fernandez said earlier this year he will not stand for reelection and Kirchner, 70, who was president from 2007-15, has also ruled out a candidacy in October.

Kirchner is a long-time critic of the $44 billion IMF loan agreed by her liberal successor Mauricio Macri and renegotiated by Fernandez to help the cash-strapped country from defaulting.

“If we don’t manage to get this program that the Fund imposes on its debtors thrown aside allowing us to create our own growth and industrialization and technological development, it will be impossible to pay the debt,“ said Kirchner.

Crisis-ridden Argentina is grappling with year-on-year inflation of 108 percent, a severe shortage of foreign exchange and a poverty level of around 40 percent.

In front of the government palace on the Plaza de Mayo square, thousands of supporters defied the rain to show their support, even chanting “Cristina president.”

While Kirchner has a large and fiercely loyal base, far more people in the country either despise her or simply don’t want to see her in the presidency again.

Analysts suggest her refusal to stand in the elections is because she knows she would be soundly beaten.

She regularly claims her corruption conviction was political persecution and accuses the judiciary of pro-opposition bias.

Her political movement has yet to decide its candidate or candidates for the primaries in August.

As a dominant figure in the coalition and left wing, Kirchner is likely to play a major role in deciding who gets to stand for the presidency. -AFP