Argentina is once again making international headlines, but this time it had nothing to do with vultures or dollars or defaults. Argentines woke up yesterday to the shocking news that Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor who had directly accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of complicity in covering up Iran’s responsibility for the terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in 1994, was found dead just hours before he was due to testify in Congress.
Since the news broke, the country has exploded with indignation as protests erupted across Argentina’s cities. Many people in the country believe that Nisman possessed undeniable evidence of Cristina’s participation in protecting the guilty parties in Iran from facing prosecution and responsibility to obtain preferential trading agreements and achieve economic gain at the expense of justice.
Nisman’s death is suspicious, and while details are still emerging, it will likely remain so. He was found dead from a single bullet wound to the head on his bathroom floor, locked inside his upscale apartment in a reasonably-secure building. An autopsy has confirmed that the borrowed .22 caliber pistol found by his side inflicted the kill wound.
This suspected political killing has not swung markets the way it would in other countries, which could cause foreigners looking in to underestimate the importance of this death to Argentina’s future.
World news outlets are accustomed to seeing terrible and even bizarre headlines about Argentina. Crisis, default, comparisons with Venezuela, and even accusations of adopting werewolves – let’s face it , these headlines are attention grabbers. They paint Argentina as a backwards and downward-sliding quagmire where the mysterious death of a judge about to testify against the president isn’t out of place.
This death is out of place and it has ignited a spark within society. This is unprecedented since the return of democracy.
Argentina is a country divided. Depending on which side of the political spectrum people sit, they either love Kirchnerism’s brand of Peronism and view any criticism as a vitriolic attack on the poor, or hate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and everything she stands for as responsible for the deepening ruin of the country. This is not a political fabric that can withstand much strain.
The circumstances surrounding the late prosecutor’s death stink of foul play and reek of conspiracy, and it is unlikely much light will be shed on them; rather, the divide between political divisions will rip even deeper.
This spark has ignited the kind of unrest that could tear the country apart and bring Cristina down with it.
The Kirchner administration commands unwavering support from swaths of the population owing to a combination of populist programs, vitriolic speeches, and support for human rights and progressive causes. But the economy has been in real trouble for some time now, and keeping it from ripping at the seams is a delicate and constant balancing act.
Cristina has been battling rampant inflation, parallel currency markets, falling reserves, and increasingly expensive domestic fiscal spending programs. Low commodity prices are not doing her any favors save making imported energy comparatively less expensive, and she has been throwing the kitchen sink at keeping these problems from coming to head before the end of her presidency at the end of 2015. A political scandal that enrages her opposition is not good news.
Opposition took to the streets and to the Plaza de Mayo with pots and pans demanding she be brought to justice for her alleged role in first covering up the identities of the AMIA bombers and now killing Alberto Nisman.
The people of Argentina want justice, and unless a timely investigation reveals a compelling alternative explanation to the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, to many justice must take the form of Cristina facing responsibility.
(Photo via EFE)