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August 26, 2019 3:24 pm

‘I’m Sure It Wasn’t Cristina’: Argentine Presidential Election Frontrunner Makes Bold Claim Over Murder of AMIA Prosecutor Alberto Nisman

avatar by Ben Cohen

Argentine vice presidential candidate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner waving to supporters in Buenos Aires after meeting with presidential frontrunner Alberto Fernandez. Photo: Reuters / Luisa Gonzalez.

Alberto Fernandez, the current frontrunner in Argentina’s upcoming presidential election, has defended his vice presidential nominee — former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner — from the suggestion that she was involved in the murder of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman in 2015.

Speaking at a public forum in Buenos Aires last Thursday, Fernandez  exclaimed, “Cristina was the one most affected by Nisman’s murder.” Several local media outlets covering the event noted that Fernandez rapidly corrected himself after using the word “murder” in relation to Nisman, substituting the words “that death” instead.

Nisman’s body was discovered in the early morning of Jan. 19, 2015 — hours before he was due to unveil a complaint against Kirchner’s government for reaching a pact with Iran despite the ongoing investigation, which he was leading, into the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Eighty-five people were murdered and more than 300 wounded in an attack conceived and executed by Iran in collaboration with its Hezbollah terrorist proxy.

Kirchner’s government falsely maintained that Nisman’s assassination was a suicide until an independent police investigation in May 2017 established beyond doubt that the federal prosecutor had been murdered. More recent efforts within Argentina to bring Kirchner — who has served as a senator since losing the 2015 presidential election — to trial over both the AMIA case and Nisman’s murder have come to nothing.

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In May of this year, Kirchner announced that she was running on the ticket of presidential candidate, Alberto Fernandez. Despite sharing a common family name, the couple are neither related nor married; their previous professional relationship was forged during Kirchner’s time in office, when Fernandez served as her chief of staff.

As well as implying that Nisman’s death had been traumatic for Kirchner, Fernandez was adamant that the his running mate had nothing to do with the federal prosecutors’ killing, despite its suspicious timing.

“Prosecutor Nisman has to removed from the electoral context, and I’m saying that as someone who was in contact with Nisman until one day before his death,” Fernandez argued. “If he was killed, then that death has to be taken care of. I’m sure it wasn’t Cristina.”

Pressed whether Nisman’s death had been a murder, Fernandez answered, “I don’t know.”

A seasoned operator with a conservative political background, Fernandez now heads the Frente de Todos (Front for All) alliance, which includes, but is not restricted to, Kirchner and her allies. In the primary elections earlier this month, Fernandez won a resounding victory over current President Mauricio Macri, taking nearly 48 percent of the vote against just 32 percent for the center-right incumbent.

In the days since the primary vote, successive polls have indicated that Fernandez will win an outright victory in the final round on Oct. 27. Under Argentine presidential election rules, if a candidate wins at least 45 percent of the vote, or gains 40 percent with a 10-percentage-point lead, that candidate is declared the winner.

Fernandez’s political rise has coincided with another dramatic slide in Argentina’s economic fortunes since Macri won the presidency in 2015. The country is in a recession and has one of the highest inflation rates in the world. The local currency, the peso, lost half of its value against the US dollar last year.

While inflation has come down in recent months from a high of 57.3 percent in May, this has not led to a polling boost for Macri.

A Fernandez victory in Argentina would go against the grain in regional terms, with Brazil, Colombia and Chile among the Latin American countries that have elected right-wing presidents during the last two years.

In terms of foreign policy, a Fernandez administration is unlikely to continue the pro-Western policies of Macri — whose agenda has included classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and opposing the continued rule of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. In a TV interview last week, Fernandez made clear his view that Maduro –– whose government is closely allied with Iran, Cuba, Turkey, Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes — should be engaged in dialogue.

“I believe that the problem in Venezuela is not going to be resolved with Marines, it won’t be resolved supporting an invasion,” Fernandez said. “The problem in Venezuela will be resolved by favoring the betterment of institutional quality and democratic coexistence in Venezuela.”

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