On June 1, the Federal Court of Argentina ruled that the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman was a homicide. What has been generally known since January 2015 is now official, after the ruling of Judge Julián Ercolini, who issued his judgment based on the evidence presented by the Prosecutor’s Office.
The decision by the court is hardly a surprise. Last year, the National Police presented their expert reports confirming that the death was the result of a homicide. Nisman’s former partner, and the mother of his daughters, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, maintained from the beginning that it was a homicide. However, during the end of the Kirchner era, it was not very clear that today’s ruling, which is logical and reasonable, would ever see the light of day.
In the wake of Nisman’s death, authorities first deemed it to be a “suspicious death.” Although ex-president Kirchner, who had been denounced days before by Nisman for covering up the infamous AMIA bombing, did not publicly address the matter, her spokesmen promoted the theory of death by suicide. The AMIA bombing was Argentina’s deadliest terrorist attack, killing 85. There are serious allegations that the Kirchner administration swept aside the AMIA investigation, which pointed to Iran, in exchange for favorable commercial deals with the Iranian government.
The strategy of discrediting Nisman was used on several occasions by the government, promoted by regime supporters and advocates despite evidence to the contrary. One of the loudest voices, in this case, was the famous actor Gerardo Romano, who never tired of repeating to media outlets that Nisman had committed suicide.
The thesis of these spokesmen centered on the claim that Nisman had been swindled by intelligence agents, who promised him evidence that linked Kirchner to a cover-up on the part of Iranian officials. According to this story, the agents were ultimately unable to provide him with hard evidence, since it did not exist. Orthodox Kirchnerists embraced this improbable theory, believing that Nisman shot himself just days before he was scheduled to appear before Congress.
In January 2015, Kirchner issued an official communication. One one of her many national television channels, Kirchner appeared in a wheelchair, due to a minor injury to one of her legs. The appearance was highly questioned by the opposition, who noted that it would have been easy enough to not show the wheelchair, or her raised leg, in the camera shot. Of course, Kirchner an eternal master of manipulation, used the image of supposed frailty to bolster her political support.
Her address offered no condolences for either Nisman’s daughters or his mother; rather she used the opportunity to praise her own government’s record on human rights. After several self-congratulatory minutes, Cristina limited herself to saying that the person who lent Nisman the weapon with which he shot himself was a “fervent opponent” of her government.
That same year Kirchnerism would lose power in Argentina in a context of general public repudiation. The death of Nisman was one of the points of no return for the political movement that had governed the country for twelve years.
The departure of Cristina and the real investigation
Although it is not yet known if Nisman’s death was ordered by the former president, if it was ordered by another person to defend her (with or without her authorization or order), or if those responsible were involved in the intelligence sectors, what is certain is that with Peronism in the power the investigation was not going to see the light of the day.
Kirchnerism had to fall in order for an adequate investigation began. Today, judicial investigations are more likely to come to fruition, not only in relation to the prosecutor’s death but also with respect to the serious allegations against Kirchner which he was investigating. When Kirchner was still president, she was able to get the justice system to dismiss the accusation.
Today, the Argentine government must finally establish what happened with the AMIA case, with Alberto Nisman, but also if Cristina Kirchner was involved in Nisman’s murder, or a cover-up thereof.