BUENOS AIRES – A day after an estimated 400,000 people marched in Buenos Aires to honor late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, the Argentine government criticized the political tone of an event one opposition leader described as a “resounding demonstration of hope.”
What took place Wednesday in Buenos Aires was not “a demonstration from the point of view of paying tribute to anybody, but rather an opposition march,” presidential chief of staff Anibal Fernandez said.
Citing the “strongly aggressive” statements some participants made against President Cristina Fernandez, Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich spoke of a “political interest” behind the various demonstrations that have followed Nisman’s still-unexplained death last month.
Even so, both officials echoed the marchers’ demand for answers in the investigation of the prosecutor’s “suspicious death,” which came a few days after Nisman accused the president, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and six others of trying to conceal Iranian involvement in a 1994 attack on a Jewish organization in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead.
Ruling party lawmaker Fernando “Chino” Navarro said Argentine democracy could be weakened if the probe of Nisman’s death does not produce a credible result.
The prosecutor was found dead Jan. 18 in his apartment. Nisman died of a single shot to the temple, fired from a gun he had borrowed from a colleague.
Wednesday’s march “was a resounding demonstration of society’s hope,” the leader of the opposition Renewal Front, Sergio Massa, said in a statement.
Massa is among the people vying to succeed Fernandez when she leaves office in December after serving two terms.
Another presidential hopeful, rightist Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, told Radio Mitre he felt that he had been part of “a historic day” on Wednesday.
He also blasted Fernandez, who, he said, “doesn’t listen to anyone.”
Nisman’s ex-wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, is demanding that the investigation into his death be monitored by a representative of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
“In this judicial, political and media conjuncture, the guarantees for a totally impartial, risk-free investigation do not exist,” she said in an interview with Vorterix radio.
Nisman was the special prosecutor for the 1994 attack on the AMIA organization.
His accusation against Fernandez, taken up last week by prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita, cites the Memorandum of Understanding her administration signed with Iran in 2013 to facilitate the AMIA investigation as the principal instrument of the purported cover-up.
The late prosecutor said that intercepts of telephone calls among some of the prospective defendants – though not Fernandez or Timerman – showed the outlines of a plan for Argentina to get Interpol to rescind the red notices the international police agency had issued for the arrest of Iranians accused in the AMIA bombing.
Yet the man who headed Interpol for 15 years until last November rebutted Nisman’s key accusation.
“I can say with 100 percent certainty, not a scintilla of doubt, that Foreign Minister Timerman and the Argentine government have been steadfast, persistent and unwavering that the Interpol’s red notices be issued, remain in effect and not be suspend or removed,” Ronald K. Noble said last month.
Many in the Argentine Jewish community believe the AMIA bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by Tehran’s Hezbollah allies.
Both the Iranian government and the Lebanese militia group deny any involvement and the accusation relies heavily on information provided by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
Prosecutors have yet to secure a single conviction in the case.
In September 2004, 22 people accused in the bombing were acquitted after a process plagued with delays, irregularities and tales of witnesses’ being paid for their testimony.