Will Argentina’s 180 on Prosecutor’s Death Stem Political Damage?

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Following the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, the government in Argentina has done an about-face, initially suggesting his death was a suicide and later calling it part of an operation to destabilize the government.

After Nisman’s body was discovered in his apartment on January 18 — the day before he was scheduled to testify on President Cristina Kirchner’s alleged role in covering up Iran’s participation in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires — Kirchner initially suggested that Nisman had committed suicide. Then, on January 22, the president published a letter on her blog stating that she was “convinced” Nisman had not taken his life voluntarily, but was the victim of an operation designed to undermine her government.

Kirchner’s reversal followed protests in capital city Buenos Aires and around the country, and evidence that cast doubt on the suicide explanation for Nisman’s death. A locksmith hired to open the door to Nisman’s apartment stated that the service door was unlocked and could have been opened by anyone, reported EFE. Investigators have also discovered a fingerprint and a footprint in a passageway between a third entrance to Nisman’s apartment and a neighboring apartment.

InSight Crime Analysis

Kirchner’s about-face suggests the president is making a last-ditch effort to control the political damage caused by a case that has become an explosive issue both in Argentina and abroad. Kirchner’s initial dismissal of Nisman’s death as a suicide spawned a plethora of conspiracy theories and cast suspicion on a government already implicated in several other scandals. The Nisman case has threatened to destabilize the Kirchner administration during Kirchner’s final year in office.

In Mexico, similar attempts to downplay a tragic event also backfired on the federal government. The state’s response to attacks against 43 missing students, and mounting skepticism about the official version of events have led to widespread protests, with Mexican citizens taking to social media to call for the resignation of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

At a recent event on citizen security in Mexico at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, Ariel Moutsatsos, the Minister for Press and Public Affairs for Mexico’s US embassy, acknowledged that the Iguala case had seriously affected public perceptions of the Peña Nieto government. “How did we go from having and knowing the person who allegedly performed this [attack] and gave the order, to just distracting all this attention and putting it on the federal government?” he asked. 

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+