Twenty two years ago the largest terrorist attack ever to occur in the Western Hemisphere took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina when the Argentine/Jewish Community Center known as AMIA was blown to smithereens causing the deaths of 83 innocent people. To this day, the case remains unsolved with none of the perpetrators held to account. However, in 2005, a new prosecutor by the name of Alberto Nisman was assigned to the case. He was about to release his findings indicating that Iran along with Hezbollah carried out the attack. Mr. Nisman mysteriously died the night before he was to testify.
A year after the mysterious death of the Argentine prosecutor many things remain unresolved while others have become more transparent.
What needs to be resolved has not been resolved. How the attack on AMIA was bombed and by whom with exact detail and precision, nobody knows. Likewise, how Mr. Nisman died continues to be matter of speculation and opinion.
However, what is really clear and very transparent is the fact that both cases reveal that those in charge of the investigations, law enforcement and the judiciary, are incapable of functioning properly. This is partly due to ineptitude and lack of professionalism on the one hand and to politization and corruption on the other.
In 2013, as part of his investigation Nisman became concerned about a bilateral pact that then president, Cristina Kirchner had signed with Iran setting up a commission to jointly interrogate the Iranian suspects living in Tehran. Nisman considered this agreement unconstitutional and motivated by the Argentinean government’s desire to normalize relations with Iran in order to obtain commercial benefits. Nisman believed that such action was aimed at absolving the Iranians and therefore interfered with a criminal investigation. Thus, Nisman argued that former President Cristina Kirchner and some in her entourage including Foreign Minister Hector Timerman violated the law.
Two judges determined that Nisman’s findings had no merit. For almost a year, Ms. Kirchner and others tried to ruin Nisman’s reputation and defame him. Likewise, elements within the government suggested that Iran may not have been the perpetrator of the attack.
Yet, most recently some audios revealed the absurdity of Kirchner’s reasoning.
Mr. Timerman admitted in a taped conversation he had in 2012 with the leaders of the Argentine organized Jewish community that Iran bombed the AMIA building. Yet, he tried to persuade them that the best way to judicially solve the case was by negotiating with the Iran of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an ardent anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.
The Foreign Minister mocked the AMIA leaders by saying that they were not providing solutions, but he failed to explain how exactly negotiations with Iranian leaders would guarantee to bring them to confess their crimes. This idea is so unreal that it is logical to assume that the motivation for such “negotiation” was not to solve the case but to normalize relations with Iran, whether for commercial reasons (as Nisman suspected) or for ideological reasons (Argentina was very close to Venezuela that promoted the strengthening of Iran’s position in Latin America).
A recent book on Nisman, written by journalist Facundo Pastor,(not necessarily sympathetic to Mr. Nisman), reveals that Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, the judge in charge of investigating the AMIA case, denied any knowledge of Nisman’s investigation of President Cristina Kirchner. This attitude took Nisman by surprise. But Pastor also reveals that Kirchner promised Canicoba Corral’s son a position as a federal judge and lived up to her promise shortly afterwards.
Furthermore, after Nisman’s death, a new investigation against Nisman and his family was conducted over suspicions of money laundering through a foreign account. The judge in charge of that investigation was no other than Canicoba Corral. The judge publicly stated Nisman’s culpability from the beginning before it could be legally justified. For that reason, Nisman’s family requested the removal of the judge from the case. But is it conceivable that such ethical violations and conflict of interests be allowed in a country where the rule of law should prevail?
As per the AMIA investigation, it is interesting that in 2004, the judges released four Argentinean high police officers accused of collaborating with the AMIA building bombers. One of the them was the second in command of the Buenos Aires Province police, the largest police force in the country. As the government of Kirchner came to power it was decided to remove the judge in charge of the investigation because the judge tried to bribe a witness to testify against the policemen. Nisman himself, who then was appointed as a third prosecutor in the case, validated the accusation against the police officers but still those police officers were released very much to the dismay of Jewish community leaders.
The detention of the police officers was seen as a ploy orchestrated by the government of Kirchner’s predecessor and political enemy, Carlos Menem. It is far from clear if those police officers should have been released at all.
Having said so, a new testimony surfaced last year. In 1985, the Federal police planted a spy in the Argentine Jewish community. The purpose of such spying activity was to try to find out about the supposed secret plans of the Jewish community to conquer the Patagonia, a large region in Southern Argentina. This suspicion was based purely on the police force belief in the so-called “Plan Andinia”,which is an Argentinean version of the classic Russian pamphlet “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, that alludes to a world Jewish conspiracy.
The spy, whose was alias “Iosi”, became a familiar face in the Jewish community and became part of the board of directors of key entities in the Jewish community. He did not find any Jewish conspiracy or plan to conquer Southern Argentina. However, “Iosi” reported to his superior’s details about the Jewish community buildings, movements of people, schedules, and names. According to “Iosi”, after the attack on AMIA, he had no doubt that information he had sent to his superiors was used in the AMIA bombing.
Iosi’s testimony raises again the question why these policemen were released. Meanwhile, to add to this surreal story, after his release the policeman who was the chief suspect went on to study law and became a lawyer.
The challenge in Argentina is huge. Although the new president, Mauricio Macri has ordered the archives opened on the Nisman case and expressed commitment to justice, the Argentinean system is sick.
The law and those who practice it are in a state of permanent degeneration. Well too many judges and the security apparatus are inept , malicious or corrupt. Racketeering within the stateprevails. Too many Argentinean politicians have a cynical mindset that makes them think that such depraved behavior is normal and natural.
The reconstruction of the state, legal system and law enforcement must be the top priority for Mr. Macri. In Argentina, this, perhaps, is even more important than reformation of the economy.
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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