"Much like the Kennedy assassination in the United States, suspicious deaths have become the staples of political debate in the region.."
The Suspicious death of an Argentine prosecutor has riled a nation to call for truth and justice and the New York Times relates the events as similar to other suspicious deaths of important officials and the lengths taken to determine the truth.. Thanks to Dr. Wecht for calling attention to this important story. - BK
New York Times – Argentina
AMERICAS | MEMO FROM ARGENTINA
Whodunit? In Obsessed Nation, Question Becomes Who Didn’t
By SIMON ROMERO
FEB. 7, 2015
BUENOS AIRES — The president did it. No, it was the Argentine spymaster plotting against her. Maybe it really was a suicide, the tragic fall of a man whose case was coming undone. Or was it Iran, the Israeli Mossad, the C.I.A.? And what about the lingering influence of the Nazis who fled here afterWorld War II?
Ever since the fatal shooting of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of conspiring with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing of a Jewish community center, this country has been awash in theories about who pulled the trigger, and why.
Whether in hushed conversations in cafes, at corner news stalls, or at a lonely beach town hot-dog stand, much of Argentina seems to have an idea about how Mr. Nisman ended up on his apartment floor with a gunshot wound to the head — the night before he was scheduled to testify about his accusations to lawmakers.
“It has to either be the armed faction of narco-Nazi-jihadist international terrorism, or it has to be the Jewish-Marxism mafia that also involves the C.I.A., Israel and the Mossad,” said Carlos Wiesemann, 65, a hot-dog vendor in the town of Pinamar, weighing his list of suspected forces while drinking whiskey with a friend.
Indeed, the obsession with Mr. Nisman’s death — and the expansiveness of the theories to explain it — has grown so intense that some Argentines are poring over the case in one of the country’s most intimate sanctuaries the psychotherapist’s office.
“All my clients are talking about the case,” said María del Carmen Torretta, 67, a psychoanalyst who treats about 15 clients a week in Villa Ballester, a suburb of Buenos Aires. “People are tired and scared,” she said. “It’s a red-hot issue.”
Pollsters have even surveyed Argentines to see who they think is responsible. One recent poll by Rouvier showed that about 48 percent of people in 800 telephone interviews across Argentina thought that Mrs. Kirchner’s government was behind the prosecutor’s death. Nearly 20 percent said the opposite — that he was a victim of a conspiracy against the government — while 33 percent acknowledged that they just did not know. The survey’s margin of sampling error was plus or minus three percentage points.
The loss of Mr. Nisman is the latest installment in a Latin American tradition: landmark political deaths that spur an array of clashing theories, often for decades.
“Many people are in anguish over Nisman’s death and they’re grasping for ways to explain it,” said Diego Sehinkman, a psychologist and author here. “If Argentina were a patient, it would appear to have a disorder involving repetition compulsion over traumatic unsolved deaths.”
Much like the Kennedy assassination in the United States, suspicious deaths have become staples of political debate in the region, sometimes pushing the courts and the authorities to go to great lengths to resolve them.
In recent years, the body of President Salvador Allende of Chile was exhumed to determine whether he took his own life or was shot dead as troops stormed the presidential palace in an American-supported coup on Sept. 11, 1973.
The remains of Pablo Neruda, theNobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, were recently exhumed to figure out whether he died of cancer or foul play shortly after the coup in 1973. Investigators recently disinterred João Goulart, a Brazilian president deposed in a 1964 coup supported by the C.I.A., to see if he was poisoned by spieswhile in exile in Argentina.
And in a particularly dramatic event, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela had the sarcophagus of Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century aristocrat who freed much of South America from Spain, opened on national television to determine whether he died of arsenic poisoning instead of tuberculosis in 1830, as historians had long accepted.
In each of these cases, investigators failed to find evidence of foul play in the deaths.
Here in Argentina, many people said that Mr. Nisman’s death reminded them of another mysterious episode in the country’s history: the 1995 death of the son of Carlos Menem, Argentina’s president at the time.
After Carlos Menem Jr. died in a helicopter crash, his mother claimed that her son had been killed, prompting yet another exhumation. Mr. Menem, now 84 and a senator, officially contended as well last year that his son had been murdered.
Mrs. Kirchner made it clear in January that she believed Mr. Nisman, the prosecutor, had been killed, pointing to three previous episodes, two from 1998 and one from 2003, in which “cases of suicide were never cleared up.” Mrs. Kirchner and her inner circle have rejected Mr. Nisman’s accusations of wrongdoing and cast suspicion in his death on a range of figures, including the assistant who lent Mr. Nisman the gunand the ousted spymaster who worked with Mr. Nisman to compile the allegations against the president.
Though neither Mrs. Kirchner nor her government has accused anyone of murder directly, she has described Mr. Nisman’s death as part of a plot to smear her, saying, “They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead.”
But given that Mr. Nisman’s 289-page criminal complaint accused Mrs. Kirchner of trying to reach a secret deal with Iran to derail his investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center, which killed 85 people, many Argentines argue that her government is the logical place to look for suspects.
“This is a country where mafias can artfully make a murder look like a suicide,” said Ana Rosa Di Serio, 65, a newsstand operator who said she believed that government officials supporting Mrs. Kirchner had Mr. Nisman killed, though without the president’s knowledge.
Others reject that theory, siding with the government.
“It doesn’t suit the government to have a death in an election year,” said Claudia Rúmolo, 55, the owner of Mordisquito, a bar lined with bookcases in downtown Buenos Aires, referring to the presidential election later this year. “A rogue branch of the Intelligence Secretariat did it, responding to opposition sectors nationally or abroad.”
Confused yet? The theories get far more complex.
While investigators have still not ruled whether Mr. Nisman was killed or took his own life, few of the theories heard on the streets accept suicide as an explanation.
One claim involves a local assassin targeting the prosecutor with the help of Venezuelan spies. Some bloggers have cast suspicion on what they describe as the Chinese mafia. A rabbi here put forward a complex interpretation of the Torah, pointing to a codified reference to the surname “Nisman” to deduce that the prosecutor was pressured by others into killing himself.
“I don’t know who did it, but I’m sure we will never find out,” said Marcus Macias, 29, an attendant selling snacks and soft drinks at a kiosk while watching a zombie movie on a flat-screen television under the glow of neon lights.
“These things happen everywhere,” he said. “The Nisman case is just like Kennedy.”
Charles Newbery contributed reporting from Pinamar, Argentina, and Jonathan Gilbert and Frederick Bernas from Buenos Aires.
A version of this article appears in print on February 8, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Whodunit? In Obsessed Nation, Question Becomes Who Didn’t. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Alberto Nisman in May 2013. Mr. Nisman had accused Mrs. Kirchner of conspiring to cover up responsibility for the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, claims she has rejected.
News about Argentina, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.
CHRONOLOGY OF COVERAGE
FEB. 18, 2015
Argentinian Foreign Min Hector Timerman sends letter to Sec of State John Kerry, warning United States and other countries to stay out of nation's domestic issues, such as case of mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
FEB. 14, 2015
Buenos Aires prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita is seeking to charge Argentina's Pres Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other officials of very accusations lodged against her by late Alberto Nisman--that of protecting Iranians from responsibility in 1994 bombing at Jewish center that killed 85 people; Nisman was found dead of gunshot wound one day before he was to voice his claims in Congress.
FEB. 10, 2015
Op-Ed article by author Uki Goni makes note of Argentina's long history of political 'suicides,' which are so common that special word has been invented for apparent suicides of politicians; notes this history does not bode well for truth in demise of Alberto Nisman; holds Nisman's death, who died one day before he was to give testimony against Pres Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is a reminder of this history.
FEB. 8, 2015
Memo From Argentina; Argentinians are obsessed with puzzling case of death of Alberto Nisman, prosecutor who accused Pres Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up for Iran in bombing of Jewish community center; speculation about who was behind Nisman's death has reached feverish pitch, and shows how his death is latest installment in Latin American tradition of landmark political deaths that provoke speculation and discussion for years.
FEB. 6, 2015
Argentina's former spy chief Antonio Stiusso is asked to testify in inquiry into death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was investigating 1994 bombing of Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
Fallout Over Argentine Prosecutor’s Death Draws International Tensions
By JONATHAN GILBERTFEB. 17, 2015
INTENDENTE ALVEAR, Argentina — Fallout from the mysterious death of a federal prosecutor raised diplomatic tensions between Argentina and the United States on Tuesday, on the eve of a controversial march in the prosecutor’s honor that has fueled unease between the government and parts of the judiciary.
In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister, said the country should not tolerate being a “theater for operations of politics, intelligence or, even worse, more serious actions, because of conflicts that are completely unconnected with its history,” adding that Argentina had no strategic interests in the Middle East
Days before his death on Jan. 18, the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had accused Mr. Timerman and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchnerof trying to derail his investigation into the fatal bombing in 1994 of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires by conspiring to shield Iranians from his charges that they had planned the attack….
“Argentina is observing with great concern the increasing frequency with which many countries are used as stages for the intervention of other states to set out disputes in function of their own geopolitical interests,” Mr. Timerman wrote in the letter, which he read aloud at a news conference. “My country rejects these actions and tries to ensure they do not happen in its territory.” Mr. Timerman, who sent a near-identical letter to the foreign minister of Israel, reminded foreign diplomatic officials that they should not interfere in Argentina’s domestic issues.
In a phone call on Tuesday, Mr. Timerman said he would not elaborate on his written remarks. A spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Argentina also declined to comment.
Responding to Mr. Timerman’s plea for the United States government to take up the issue of the 1994 bombing in its talks with Iran over nuclear issues, Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said she was not aware of any plans to do so.
“There is a great paralysis in the government about how to resolve this institutional crisis,” said Carlos Germano, a political analyst in Buenos Aires. “It’s turning to the old saying that there’s no better defense than a good attack, and the United States is the easiest target,” he added, referring to tensions between the United States and Latin American countries.
Mr. Timerman has challenged the central premise of Mr. Nisman’s criminal complaint by pointing to an email from the former secretary general of Interpol that says Mr. Timerman never lobbied to lift international arrest warrants for the Iranians.
A prosecutor revived Mr. Nisman’s complaint last week, seeking to charge Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Timerman. The government said the revival of the complaint and a march planned for Wednesday in Mr. Nisman’s honor by a group of prosecutors amounted to a judicial coup. Members of the political opposition and other Argentines unhappy with the government plan to attend the march, leading Mrs. Kirchner’s supporters to denounce it as “political opportunism.”
In speeches Mrs. Kirchner delivered in Patagonia over the weekend, she did not explicitly mention the fallout from Mr. Nisman’s death.
But she did post comments on Facebook from a speech last week in which she spoke out against unspecified influences abroad, implying that they were meddling in Argentina’s affairs.
Investigators are still trying to establish whether Mr. Nisman, who was found dead of a bullet wound to the head, shot himself or was killed. Some Argentines believe the government had a hand in the events surrounding his death. But Mrs. Kirchner has cast suspicion on a rogue spymaster recently ousted from Argentina’s main intelligence agency. She has suggested that the spymaster, Antonio Stiuso, manipulated Mr. Nisman by feeding him misleading information for his case against her.
A version of this article appears in print on February 18, 2015, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Argentine Case Draws International Tensions.
Argentines March to Demand Answers About Dead Prosecutor
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESSFEB. 18, 2015, 5:34 P.M. E.S.T.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Tens of thousands of Argentines marched through the capital Wednesday demanding answers in the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman exactly one month after he was found in his bathroom with a bullet in his right temple.
In a case that has posed one of the strongest challenges to President Cristina Fernandez, protesters waved Argentine flags and carried white signs with black letters that read "Justice!" and "Truth!" Many also carried umbrellas to repel a burst of summer rain.
Blanca Perez, 81, said she believed Nisman had been murdered and the government needed to account for what happened.
"If we don't have justice, we won't have liberty," she said. "The government has lost control of the situation."
Organized by several prosecutors, protesters walked from Congress to the iconic Plaza de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires. Police didn't immediately provide a crowd estimate, but the 10-block stretch, plus many surrounding streets, burst with people, making it one of the biggest of several marches since Nisman's body was discovered Jan. 18.
Upon arriving at their destination, thousands stayed for more than an hour, chanting "Argentina!" and demanding action by the government. By late Wednesday, most were starting to disperse.
The 51-year-old prosecutor was found in a pool of blood the day before he was to detail to Congress his explosive accusations that Fernandez and top government officials orchestrated a secret deal with Iran to shield Iranian officials allegedly responsible for the 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center in Argentina's capital.
Fernandez has denied the allegations, but her administration has struggled to confront the growing political crisis.
The president initially suggested Nisman had killed himself, then did an about-face a few days later, saying she suspected he had been slain. Authorities now say they are investigating the possibility of suicide or homicide.
Like many Argentines, lawyer Marcelo Lopez rejected the idea that Nisman killed himself.
"I'm worried about the future of my country," he said, holding a sign that read, "They can't 'suicide' us all."
In the lead up to the march, the main opposition parties said they planned to participate, making it a hotly contested political issue and adding to intensifying rhetoric from the government.
Fernandez has suggested Nisman was killed by rogue counterintelligence agents and have cast suspicions on Antonio "Jaime" Stiuso, who reportedly oversaw a vast wire-tapping operation before being removed by Fernandez in December.
Stiuso, who had worked with Nisman on his investigation, provided testimony on Wednesday, according to a statement from the office of Viviana Fein, the lead investigator in Nisman's death. No other details were provided.
Fernandez and other top administration officials also have suggested that the United States and Israel have meddled with Argentina, but have not provided details.
In a speech at nuclear power plant earlier Wednesday, Fernandez referred to letters that Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said he sent Tuesday to his counterparts in the United States and Israel. Timerman said the two countries should not get involved in Argentina's affairs, but did not provide specifics.
"Some people wanted to play dumb and look the other way," Fernandez said of the accusations. "I urge all compatriots to read every paragraph of those letters."
Fernandez, known for populist, fiery speeches, did not elaborate. But she did cast the apparent friction as a battle of economic interests and attempts by other countries to keep Argentina down.
"In reality, they prefer an Argentina without a nuclear plan, an Argentina that does not develop scientifically, an Argentina with low salaries and cheap labor," she said.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman declined to comment, instead referring to a State Department statement from Tuesday saying the United States had offered assistance in the Nisman investigation. A spokeswoman at the Israeli Embassy also declined to comment.