Nisman's Death Spurs Mistrust

October 11, 2016

On Sunday, January 18th Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his apartment, his death the result of a gunshot wound.  Nisman was the prosecutor in charge of the 1994 bombing of the Israeli Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead.  Suspicions are running rampant throughout the country as Nisman was scheduled to testify in front of Congress the next morning that current president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, along with Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, were involved with Iran in an alleged cover up of the terrorist attack.1

Hired in 2004 by Nestor Kirchner (former president and late husband of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner) Nisman was put in charge of the AMIA bombing.  He had been collecting evidence for the past 10 years including phone records and transcripts of conversations.  He was scheduled to present his 289 page findings to the Argentine Congress the day after his death. The report, made available to the public, accused President Fernandez, among others, of covering up the truth after the attack.  His report highlights that a deal between Argentina and Iran was in the works to sell grain for oil.  The secret agreement allegedly fell through, as Argentina was unable to get Interpol to drop the warrants of the Iranians wanted in connection to the bombing. Nisman’s report claims that it was the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, a strong ally of Iran, that was responsible for conducting the terrorist attack in 1994.2

While President Fernandez originally pointed to suicide as the cause of death in a Facebook post, she has since put forth another statement claiming that Nisman’s death is the result of political foes. The contradictory statements by the president make it difficult to assess whether she believes Nisman was killed or is simply playing to the growing national sentiment. The president has also asserted her innocence by claiming that Nisman was given false information and was intentionally misled. “Yo soy Nisman” has become the rallying cry for the protesters who have engulfed Argentina demanding the truth regarding both the 1994 bombing and Nisman’s suspicious death. Their pleas for the truth will most likely not be answered any time soon as the number of questions far outnumber the answers.3

Adding to the suspicion, Nisman was found with a 22-caliber pistol and had died from a gun wound but investigators found no gunpowder residue on his hands to confirm that he pulled the trigger.4 This neither confirms nor denies the original declaration of suicide by authorities, but came as added fuel for protesters at their demonstrations. More so, the late prosecutor was quoted in Clarin the week before his death as saying, “I might get out of this dead.”5 In support of the suicide theory is the fact that the pistol found in Nisman’s apartment belonged to his friend. He had asked for it only two days before for protection.1

The national debate over Alberto Nisman’s death is an insight into the very real mistrust of Argentines have toward their government.  The country is now 20 years removed from the AMIA bombings but has yet to officially reach a verdict.  The inability of the Argentine institutions to instill accountability at the highest levels of office has only permeated more mistrust in the public as seen with the Nisman case. It appears that  President Fernandez’s reversal of opinion and lack of concrete evidence to support her claim only worsen the growing national suspicion.  While Argentines protest for a more accountable government there is little evidence to suggest their demands will be satisfied.


Sources:

1.   “What is Known About Alberto Nisman’s Death” Available at:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-30937055

2.   Gilbert, Jonathon and Simon Romero. “Argentine Phone Calls Detail Efforts to Shield Iran” Available at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/world/americas/argentine-calls-detail-...

3.   “Argentine Leader Convinced Nisman’s Death Was No Suicide” Available at:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-30931458

4.   Bronstein, Hugh. “Argentina Suspects Rogue Agents Behind Death of Prosecutor” Available at:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/23/us-argentina-iran-idUSKBN0KW22420150123

5.   Niebieskikwiat, Natasha. “Nisman: Yo Puedo Salir Muerto de Esto” Available at:http://www.clarin.com/politica/Nisman-puedo-salir-muerto_0_1288071267.html

Photo taken on January 21, 2015 by wiki user Jaluj.

 
 

 

About Author(s)

Connor Weber
Connor Weber is an undergraduate senior at the University of Pittsburgh where he majors in Political Science along with a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Latin American studies. In the Spring of 2013 he studied abroad in Cuba for the semester as part of the program Pitt in Cuba. His time there greatly shaped his interest in U.S. foreign policy and U.S. & Latin American relations. He currently works as an intern for Panoramas and is eager to conduct research this summer in Costa Rica.