EspañolOne week after the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner appeared on television and radio to announce the creation of a Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI). The new agency, announced on Monday, January 20, will replace the Intelligence Secretariat, which Secretary General of the Presidency Aníbal Fernández has claimed was involved in Nisman’s death.
In her first public appearance to address the death that shook the nation, she doubled down on her social-media condemnation of Nisman’s accusations. He was to share evidence that the administration attempted to whitewash Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Argentinean-Israeli Jewish Association (AMIA).
“It’s ridiculous that our government could even be suspected of doing it. Nisman’s accusation is so absurd that it fits no criminal charge,” the president struck back on Monday evening.
Kirchner stated that the purpose of the AFI is to “bring transparency, once and for all, to a system that has not been used for intelligence … and has not served national interests.” She stressed that the dissolution of the current Intelligence Secretariat is a long-standing “democratic debt.”
The bill will be discussed in extraordinary legislative sessions requested by the president as early as February 1.
The director and subdirector of the new agency will be appointed by the president, with Senate approval, to a four-year term, and will be “limited to investigating complex federal crimes or constitutional violations.”
If the law is enacted, the Public Prosecutor’s Office will take over the judicial wiretapping system that is currently in the hands of the Executive.
Near the end of her speech, the president also attempted to discredit Nisman’s accusations against her and Foreign Minister Héctor Timmerman. She said she doubted the “ridiculous” document had been written by a lawyer, “much less by a prosecutor.”
In his usual morning brief on Tuesday, Chief of Staff Jorge Capitanich did not say what would happen with the current Intelligence Secretariat cadre. However, Secretary Oscar Parrilli may well remain at the helm of the new agency.
Responding to political opponents who criticized the timing of the intelligence system rebranding, Capitanich struck back: “To ask why it is being done now and not earlier is the same as asking why the May Revolution [Argentina’s independence from Spain] happened on May 25, 1810 and not on May 25, 1809.”
“Smokescreen” Criticism Pours In
CFK tiene que rendir cuentas sobre las denuncias que existen. Hacer que debatimos la democratización de la SIDE es distraccionismo puro.
— Gabriel Solano (@Solanopo) January 27, 2015
“CFK [Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner] must give an explanation about existing accusations. To have us debate [the Intelligence Secretariat’s] democratization is just a distraction.”
Political opponents have largely concurred that the presidential address and the new bill are part of a strategy — a “smokescreen” — to shift the public’s attention away from Nisman’s accusation.
Ernesto Sanz, president of the social-democrat Radical Civic Union (UCR) and a presidential contender, said “it’s insulting that the president says the problem is the Intelligence Secretariat, when she did not do anything to change it during her administration’s 12 years in power.”
In the same vein, former Vice President Julio Cobos said “The government is changing subjects, but there’s a very serious accusation against the president, and a public prosecutor is dead. That’s the heart of the matter.”
Patricia Bullrich, an opposition deputy for the opposition Unión Pro coalition, described Kirchner’s speech: “She insisted on the complot theory against her and defended the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran, putting the blame of its obstruction on the justice system; but the truth is that the Iranians never got it approved in their own country.”
“It was the Kirchner who turned the Intelligence Secretariat into an extralegal organization, useful for politics and political persecution rather than fighting crime,” said social-democrat GEN party leader Margarita Stolbizer.
Jorge Knoblovits, head of the Delegation of Argentinean-Israeli Associations (DAIA) rounded out the denunciation of Kirchner’s speech. He labelled it “reductionist” and said the president had “confused everything.”
Translated by Daniel Duarte. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.