At the heart of the criticism is a privatized rail system that critics say offers generous public subsidies to contractors with little government oversight. Regulators have since taken over the company Trenes de Buenos Aires that ran the line involved in the crash.
Since 2003, when Kirchner took office, the federal government has invested $4 billion in rail infrastructure and invested hundreds of millions of dollars a year in subsidies to keep ticket prices low.
Unhappiness with the rail system has nonetheless grown. Many people’s suspicions about the arrangement were confirmed when the Cirigliano brothers, co-owners of Trenes de Buenos Aires, were charged with fraudulent mismanagement of state funds. In a damning finding, the appeals court wrote that ‘‘the progressive deterioration of the trains, and with it, the increase of risks’’ plagued the system and said the disaster resulted from the ‘‘breaking of the ... obligations of the concession contract.’’
The Ciriglianos’ defenders said the vast majority of the subsidies were exhausted paying ever-higher salaries, and blamed the government for granting pay raises without increasing other train investments in inflationary Argentina. But Judge Claudio Bonadio also found the contractors practiced a ‘‘regular and growing abandonment of the primary maintenance tasks.’’
The interior minister, Randazzo, accused the Ciriglianos of ‘‘a lack of commitment,’’ while acknowledging that the government’s contract with them has been an embarrassment.
The court charged the two former transportation secretaries, Ricardo Jaime and Juan Pablo Sciavi, with failing to fulfill their public duties, fraud, unintentional damage of property, illicit association and rail attack. The train driver has been charged with entering the station at high speed.
All 28 defendants charged in connection to the accident are banned from leaving the country and cannot be away from their residences for more than 24 hours.
The Ciriglianos’ company blamed the driver for the accident; he said the brakes had failed. A recent poll by the firm CK Consultores found that 46 percent of Argentines believe the federal government was ultimately responsible.
A year later, the crash remains a potent political threat for Fernandez, particularly since the Sarmiento line serves hundreds of thousands of people in the working-class neighborhoods that are key to her political base. Families plan a series of memorials on Friday, including a mass protest outside the presidential palace.
Angel Cerricio, who lost his son Matias and daughter-in-law Natalia in the crash, said he’s ready for action, and not more promises of new Chinese-made train cars and other fixes.
‘‘When someone promises something and they don’t comply, that to me is a lie,’’ Cerricio said. ‘‘I am tired of these lies from the president.’’
Associated Press writer Debora Rey contributed to this report.