Latin America

Thousands join silent march in Argentina to remember prosecutor

Heavy rain didn’t dissuade demonstrators from taking to streets to honor Alberto Nisman

Francisco Peregil
People march under heavy rain showers in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.
People march under heavy rain showers in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.DAMIAN DOPACIO (AFP)

Thousands of people in Buenos Aires braved a heavy summer downpour on Wednesday to march in silence for Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor who was found dead in his home last month after he accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of being part of a cover-up conspiracy.

Spontaneous applause broke out among the crowds as they walked from the Capitol building to the Plaza de Mayo main square in front of the Casada Rosada presidential palace. Along the way, they stopped in front of the prosecutor’s office, where they stood quietly for several moments before continuing the slow march.

After a month of vociferous accusations regarding Nisman’s mysterious death, and the insults that have flown freely after the allegations he made against the president, most demonstrators showed restraint at the march.

After a month of vociferous accusations and insults, most demonstrators showed restraint at the march

While a few expressed their anger at the government, the majority of the marchers sang the national anthem or chanted “Argentina! Argentina!”

Organizers, including a small group of prosecutors and judges, had said they wanted a peaceful demonstration to show their respect for the 51-year-old Nisman and demand answers about his death.

The prosecutor was found dead in his home with a gunshot wound to his head on January 18, days after he asked for an official investigation into Fernández de Kirchner and other officials on charges that they tried to whitewash an inquiry into the deadly 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center.

Nisman had alleged that the president, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other officials were trying to negotiate a grain-for-oil swap with the Tehran government in exchange for seeking impunity for a group of Iranian officials charged with the attack, which left 85 people dead and dozens injured. Last week, another prosecutor refiled the complaint against the president and her officials.

At the time of the march, the president was inaugurating a new nuclear power plant named after her late husband

Family members of some of the victims also took part in the march, while similar demonstrations were held in other cities, such as Córdoba, Santa Fe, Mar del Plata and Rosario. Some observers described it as being the biggest protest in Argentina since the September 2012 demonstrations, when citizens ventured out on the streets to protest Fernández de Kirchner’s economic policies.

At the time of the march, the president – who is facing the worst political crisis in her two-term government – was away inaugurating a new nuclear power plant named after her husband, the late President Néstor Kirchner.

But last week, during a speech before her supporters, she briefly referred to the planned march. “We will remain with our songs, our happiness and our ‘long live the fatherland’ chants,” she said. “They always liked silence so we will leave them with their silence. Maybe because they have nothing to say, or perhaps they can’t say what they are really thinking.”

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Even though autopsy reports concluded that Nisman was alone at the time of his death, investigators have neither ruled out murder nor forced suicide.

The majority of Argentineans, however, don’t believe that the prosecutor shot himself. But no one spoke of conspiracy theories or offered any hypothesis on Wednesday – there was only silence and the demand for justice.

The march had been criticized by some sectors of society – including the government, which accused its planners of trying to destabilize democracy. Nobel Prize-winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who has opposed Fernández de Kirchner in the past, criticized opposition politicians, who face a crucial election year, for participating.

Among those who attended was Nisman’s former wife and the mother of his two daughters, Sandra Arroyo Salgado. Arroyo had said that she didn’t want the investigation into her ex-husband’s death to become a political witch hunt.

But the demonstrations served to paint a perfect picture of the social divisions that have emerged over recent years in Argentina.

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