Mourners interred prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Buenos Aires last week, but President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner might not —should not — find it easy to bury the evidence he compiled about government complicity in the notorious terrorism incident he was investigating.
The mysterious gunshot death of Mr. Nisman has become the focus of an unfolding scandal that has shaken the country. The response by Argentina’s president has been just short of erratic.
First she called it a suicide, then a homicide, then spun dark conspiracy theories about blame, pointing the finger of guilt at Argentina’s Congress and declaring it all a nefarious plot to topple her government. Finally, she sought to turn his death to her political advantage, saying it gave her reason to dismantle Argentina’s independent intelligence services.
Her performance raises questions about the president’s grip on reality. But it should not be allowed to turn a deadly serious incident into a national soap opera. Her elaborate fantasies aside, this is not about her, or about one mysterious death, but about the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that claimed 85 lives and injured scores of other victims.
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The suicide car-bombing was the biggest act of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere until 9/11.
The real scandal is that a crime of this magnitude remains unsolved, and now the man who made it his mission in life to uncover the truth is dead. That the victims were Jewish in a country with the biggest Jewish community in Latin America only compounds the heinous nature of the terrorist act.
Mr. Nisman, named chief investigator in the case 10 years ago after others had failed, was found dead in his bathroom, a gun by his side and a spent cartridge nearby, one week after he leveled explosive charges that Ms. Kirchner and top officials conspired with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing. The prosecutor was slated to go before Congress the next day to testify before lawmakers about those accusations.
Mr. Nisman had long said that Iran was at the heart of the labyrinthine plot to carry out the bombing, using the terrorist group Hezbollah as its proxy.
The story took another strange twist after Mr. Nisman’s death when a judge investigating his death issued transcripts of intercepted conversations between the Iranian and Argentine governments that were part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Mr. Nisman. The intercepts point to a secret pattern of negotiations going back to 2011 to derail the investigation and improve trade and commercial relations between Iran and Argentina.
It would indeed sound like a fantasy, except that Ms. Kirchner’s government and Iran reached agreement in 2013 to establish a joint commission to investigate the bombing, effectively putting the fox in charge of investigating the break-in at the henhouse.
That was bad enough. Now, Mr. Nisman’s death and the appearance of official complicity with Iran in a cover-up of the bombing mark a new low for Ms. Kirchner’s government.
In 2005, to his great credit, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first prominent figure in Argentina to sign a public petition demanding answers over the terrorist act. Today, the former cardinal is better known as Pope Francis. We expect that, like most people in Argentina, his indignation over the country’s failure to obtain justice for the victims of the 1994 bombing is greater than ever.