It is commonly agreed that the group called ALBA, led by Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia is the only group of countries whose democratic faith is questionable.
Argentina is not part of ALBA but its leadership, its allies in Congress and a set of sycophant intellectuals and media followers have justified and even replicated some of the worst practices of the Venezuelan regime.
The Argentinean government headed by President Cristina Kirchner claims to represent the people, the grassroots, and the needy. Since the government has been popularly elected it holds the belief that it has more rights than anyone and, therefore, can limit the rights of others and claim moral superiority just by virtue of enjoying popular support.
Thus, the media that criticizes the Kirchner regime has not been elected; therefore its views are irrelevant. Furthermore, they are part of a conspiracy to depose her government. By the same token, the judiciary that has been able to limit some of the regime’s abuses has come under fierce attacks by the government. Worse than that, the executive branch led by Kirchner has launched a war to change the judiciary in order to turn it into a sycophantic branch, a sort of poodle dog.
In that sense, the Argentinean government’s behavior is affecting not only the constitutional character of the Republic but also has international implications that should concern us. Such is the case of the circumstances that led to the death of the prosecutor in charge of investigating the 1994 terrorist attack perpetrated against the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, also known as AMIA.
The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead on January 18th in his apartment in Buenos Aires just hours before his appearance in the Argentinean congress. He was about to present evidence implicating the Argentinean president and others within the government in a cover up involving the role Iran played in the attack. Early in 2013, the Argentinean government signed a memorandum with Iran to include them in the AMIA investigation. Top Iranian officials were allegedly involved in the attack that the prosecutor was investigating. Nisman argued that the memorandum was unconstitutional and that he had evidence that the purpose of such a memorandum was to exonerate Iran in order to normalize relations with the Islamic Republic.
The death of Nisman has not been resolved yet and many people in Argentina believe it will never be resolved. Most Argentineans believe he was murdered and was not a suicide as it was reported immediately after his death. It is reasonable to believe that some sort of government pressure will be applied to conclude that Nisman committed suicide. Such a conclusion would justify the argument pursued by the government and its supporters that Nisman committed suicide because he believed that he could not prove his case before a court of law.
This is why a parallel investigation into Nisman’s findings has taken place.
A Federal judge rejected Nisman’s findings as not being sufficient to indict the president and everyone else allegedly involved. Later, an Argentinean Federal court composed of three judges dismissed Nisman’s findings by a vote of 2 to 1. After appealing again to a higher court, the accusations against Kirchner and her cronies were dropped by Javier De Luca, another Federal prosecutor. This dismissal has raised questions given De Luca’s closeness to Kirchner and her political circles.
To justify his dismissal of the case, De Luca argued that the memorandum between Argentina and Iran is not, by definition, a crime; therefore Nisman had no cause to investigate the circumstances under which the memorandum took place. This argument by De Luca is dubious since the Argentina-Iran memorandum, itself, interfered in the investigation of a criminal case independently investigated by the judicial branch. The memo stipulates that the Iranians would be part of a “truth commission” that would help solve the case of the AMIA bombing even though Iranian officials are the key suspects of the crime. It seems that the independent judicial system of Argentina that investigates a crime that took place on Argentinean soil is forced to accept a parallel extra-judicial commission which is the result of an initiative taken independently by the Argentinean executive branch.
Indeed, two Federal judges declared the memorandum “unconstitutional” claiming the memorandum violates the separation of powers by interfering in the independence of the judiciary and without considering the victims, themselves.
Still De Luca chose to ignore this verdict by recognizing the autonomy of the executive branch to make such a decision and therefore concluding that President Kirchner had done nothing wrong. Nisman claimed, based on his evidence, that the real purpose of the memorandum was to normalize relations with Iran in order to barter food for oil.
But here we are confronting a situation which is not only a matter of different judicial opinions or different interpretations. The government has not ceased since day one to ruin the reputation of the prosecutor. In addition, news about Nisman’s integrity and personal life, from supposed love affairs to money laundering have surfaced, none of them proved to be true so far. (This did not prevent the government from affirming these allegations as if they were irrevocable truths) Still worse, the government accused Nisman of being part of a global Judeo-American conspiracy.
Ms. Kirchner argued publicly that hedge-fund manager, Paul Singer may have been part of the attempt to ruin the good name of Argentina. Mr. Singer won a court battle on behalf of holders of Argentine debt in a New York Court. Paul Singer is a key funder of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington think-tank with close ties to Mr. Nisman. At the same time the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is a pro-Israeli lobby, is opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran and therefore the Argentinean Jewish organizations rushed to appeal to the judiciary in order to declare the Argentina-Iran memorandum “unconstitutional”. Thus, the president concluded “We are witnessing here a global set of forces that not only interferes with the sovereignty of the nations and undermines state operations but also generates political operations of all kinds and forms…These forces could be lobbies, financial attacks, or international media operations, or via destabilization of governments”…..It is all related to international geo-politics”.
Thus, unrelated elements seem to be coming together under a conspiracy (whose main operators seem to be Jewish) and all serve the same cause.
This rhetoric appeals to the nationalism, so well-rooted in Argentinean society both in the right and in the left. Kirchner has sought to unify the Argentinean people against an imagined external threat.
But Kirchner is also concerned about some domestic elements and not all of them are Jewish or American.
As a result of Nisman’ s death, a major demonstration took place in February organized by prosecutors and other members of the judiciary but it was supported by a great popular mass, as well. The Judiciary seems to be an obstacle to the Argentinean president who wishes to do everything she pleases without any legal or constitutional restrictions. The Kirchner government has been accused of filling the courts and prosecutors offices with people loyal to her government. Thus, the judiciary has become a political, polarized battlefield.
Kirchner recently promoted a bill that would have enabled a judicial reform making it easy for the executive branch to appoint and depose judges. The Argentinean Supreme court declared this bill unconstitutional. Now the government is trying to force a Supreme Court Justice to retire, arguing that the man is 97 years old and therefore incapable of doing his job properly. As I am writing these lines, the war to depose the old justice continues as the president wishes to replace him with a justice loyal to her political agenda.
Furthermore, the Kirchner government mobilized groups that support her such as the Association of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. This group became famous for its struggle on behalf of human rights but since has turned into another sycophant, left-wing, militant organization obedient to Kirchner. The group launched a strong attack against the prosecutors who organized the demonstration on behalf of Nisman, as well as against the entire Supreme Court and the prosecutors who want to pursue Nisman’ findings against the government.
The Argentinean government has strayed far from pursuing a democratic path. It has attempted to destroy almost every institution and every entity that dared to challenge or judge it. In this regard, the Kirchner regime aims at expanding state control over the media, the judiciary, and everything that is autonomous.
According to the World Economic Forum Argentina is number 127 among 144 countries in terms of levels of judicial independence. Furthermore, Argentina has turned into a Republic of Fear. In a recent visit to Argentina I could sense that people are afraid of speaking freely. They are afraid of retaliation by the government. The death of prosecutor Nisman is a serious symptom that cannot be overlooked. Argentina represents an example of chavization of society. It is becoming a challenge for the entire region. The destruction of the rule of law can only benefit dictators, criminals, drug cartels, and terrorists.
It is up to Latin Americans to decide how they and their children wish to live now and in the future. But it is also the moral imperative of the United States to stop ignoring these developments and include an agenda that strongly speaks and acts against this type of behavior.
THE AMERICAS REPORT
NANCY MENGES and
LUIS FLEISCHMAN, Editors
The Americas Report is the featured product of the Center for Security Policy‘s Menges Hemispheric Security Project. It features in-depth, original articles on subjects not regularly covered by the American press.
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