Political tensions in Argentina reached precarious heights on Friday when a prosecutor announced that he would continue investigating cover-up allegations against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in a case that his late colleague, Alberto Nisman, had been working on at the time of his mysterious death.
The president, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other officials have been named as suspects by the new prosecutor for allegedly trying to whitewash the involvement of a group of Iranians in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.
Nisman had filed the original case on January 14, just days before his body was found in his apartment with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. He was due to appear in Congress to explain his charges.
Without mentioning the decision taken by newly appointed prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita, Fernández de Kirchner on Sunday appeared defiant during a national televised address.
“Some are amazed at how I can endure all I have to endure,” said Fernández, speaking to a crowd at a hospital she had just inaugurated in her adopted home province of Santa Cruz, news agency Reuters reported.
“I tell them it was here in Patagonia – with the wind, the cold and the snow – that I learned that I can endure anything,” she said. “You have to be tough to live in southern Argentina.”
Her government has repeatedly denied the allegations made by Nisman that the president was trying to reach a grain-for-oil pact with Iran in exchange for impunity against the Iranian officials wanted in the car-bombing attack.
Prosecutor Pollicita has not yet called for the president, Timerman or the ruling party deputy Andrés Larroque, among others, to testify in court. Judge Daniel Rafecas, who cut his vacation short after he was assigned the case, may begin the inquiry on Wednesday, when he is scheduled to return to his courtroom.
Rafecas may have had time to read the 290-page writ, which the government ordered unsealed following Nisman’s death and posted on the internet. Some officials, including the president, believe that the complaint is inconsistent and may have not been written by Nisman.
Various legal experts consulted by the Buenos Aires daily La Nación have said that it would have been an uphill battle for Nisman to try to prove his cover-up theory in court. Even journalists who have been critical of the government have stated publicly that the complaint is weak and is based mostly on newspaper articles.
But while the opposition is warning of a “serious institutional crisis” and is demanding that justice be served, Pollicita believes there are enough elements to push the case forward.
The Fernández de Kirchner government has tried to link Pollicita with opposition leader Mauricio Macri, the Buenos Aires governor and former president of Boca Juniors Soccer Club, given that the prosecutor held various administrative posts with the team.
Some legal experts say that it would have been difficult for Nisman to prove his cover-up theory in court
Cabinet secretary Jorge Capitanich has warned that Pollicita’s complaint forms part of a judicial coup against the government.
Argentineans will go to the polls on October 25 to elect a new president. Fernández de Kirchner is barred under the Constitution from running for a third term and only has 10 months left in office. Nevertheless, she and her Cabinet officials have warned of “plots to destabilize” democracy, including staging a possible coup.
The Nisman case has polarized the entire nation. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the 55-year-old prosecutor conjures up painful memories for many Argentineans, who for decades lived under the shadow of contract murders and secret police operations concocted from the Casa Rosada presidential palace.
Many Argentineans doubt that Nisman committed suicide.
A group of prosecutors, judges and other officials announced a silent march set for Wednesday in Buenos Aires to demand justice for Nisman. The rally has been criticized by some sectors of society.
Two days after Pollicita decided to reactivate the case, the president wrote on her Facebook page: “You know what? We will leave them with their hate, insults, infamy and slander.”