On Monday evening, thousands of Argentines gathered to protest the death of a prosecutor set to testify about Iranian involvement and an alleged government cover-up tied to a deadly bombing that took place 20 years ago.
Alberto Nisman, who had been investigating the blast at the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish community center that killed 85 people for the past decade, was found dead just hours before his testimony before government officials.
Nisman was found lifeless in his home Monday, his apartment locked from the inside. He was shot to the head at close range, the gun was lying beside him. Authorities concluded that it must have been a suicide.
Regardless of what it looks like, however, the people of Argentina suspect foul play. Once the news of Nisman’s death broke, without missing a beat they took up the slogan coined in France for Charlie Hebdo “Yo Soy Nisman”, “YoSoyAlberto” — “I am Nisman,” “I am Alberto” — took over Instagram and Twitter. It was everywhere in the night-long protests.
In a new 300-page report, Nisman accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman of covering up Iran’s involvement in the bombing in order to secure trade deals for the country.
The government has said over and over that those allegations are absurd.
Monday night Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner broke a deafening day-long silence and released a statement on Nisman’s death.
“Someone’s death always causes loss and pain for those who loved them, consternation for everyone else, she wrote. “Suicide provokes, additionally and in all cases, first: shock, and then: questions. What made this person make the terrible decision to take their life?”
Fernandez went on to talk about her own experience with the Amia case. She stated 2,013 words, and said Nisman’s name only three times.
To the government and its investigators Nisman’s death is a suicide, at least for now. Viviana Fein, the case’s head investigator, said that they’re calling it “suspicious.”
There’s just one problem with that: No one believes the official line.
That’s no surprise where inflation statistics are fairly openly manipulated (independant researchers place it around 40%, the government around 20%); and people commonly exchange dollars and pesos in underground currency exchanges;
In a country still reeling from an ugly dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s where people simply “disappeared” — this murder hits a nerve.
It’s a nerve that can’t be hit by fights with hedge fund managers over debt. It’s a nerve that can’t even be hit by questions about where the President derives her substantial (potentially ill-gotten) wealth. Argentines will not allow this to roll off their shoulders the way they do bare grocery store shelves and rising crime
Opposition candidates have wasted no time calling for transparency in the investigation into Nisman’s death.
It is likely the government will do whatever they can to be (or appear) transparent. This year’s elections are riding on that. But again — Argentines don’t trust their government right now. The Kirchner regime could turn this investigation inside out and put it on display for the world to see and it might not matter.
The murky death of Alberto Nisman is a psychological breaking point.