Argentina, Latin America: Week in Review, Southern Cone

As Death of Prosecutor Shocks Argentina, Investigator Says Suicide Likely

January 20, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — In a case that has engrossed Argentina, prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead on Sunday night — just hours before he was to testify against the country’s president and other officials at a congressional hearing — of what the state’s lead investigator in the case says was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A preliminary autopsy of Nisman’s body found no evidence that anybody else was connected with his death, according to Viviana Fein, the investigating prosecutor.

Fein said that other tests are currently being done “in order to be able to rule out any other hypothesis.” A suicide note was not found on the scene, though Fein said that induced suicide cannot be ruled out at present, adding that the firearm did not belong to Nisman.

Nisman, 51, was a special prosecutor appointed by former President Néstor Kirchner — current President Cristina Fernández’s late husband — to revive an investigation into the 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish community center that killed 85 people and injured over 200. Five days before his death, Nisman presented a 300-page report to a Buenos Aires court accusing Fernández and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman of suppressing evidence against several Iranian suspects in order to clear trade channels between Argentina and Iran. Nisman was meant to testify about his accusations, which made international headlines, on Monday.

According to colleagues, Nisman previously spoke of threats leveled at him by Iranian agents and of pressure put on him by Argentine officials. He relied on the protection provided by a 10-person security detail, the members of which first sounded the alarm on Sunday when Nisman would not respond to their attempts to make contact. Nisman’s body was found in the bathroom of his apartment, a .22-caliber gun and spent cartridge close by. Authorities say there were no signs of a break-in, and ruled burglary out as a motive.

Members of the opposition, as well as leaders in the Jewish community in Argentina, have expressed outrage over Nisman’s death, and were vocal in their request for transparency in the investigation.

Congresswoman Cornelia Schmidt-Liermann, who planned to escort Nisman from his home to Monday’s hearing, shared with The Associated Press her suspicion of the state’s theory of suicide.

“Everybody who had contact with him the last 24 hours says he was confident,” she said. “There is no indication, under any circumstances, that he killed himself.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • The Mexican government will provide some 508 impoverished municipalities in Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca states with 1.5 billion pesos (around $102.5 million), as part of a fund created by President Enrique Peña Nieto to combat security and corruption issues following the disappearance of the 43 students from Guerrero.
  • Mexico plans to use three drones to patrol the Sea of Cortez in order to combat illegal fishing and save the vaquita marina, the world’s smallest porpoise, of which fewer than 100 remain worldwide.


  • After the dissolution of Haiti’s parliament last week, President Michel Martelly on Monday announced on his Facebook page the appointment of 18 ministers and 16 secretaries of state to a new Cabinet as protests calling for Martelly’s resignation continue.
  • As talks in between the U.S. and Cuba continue, members of a U.S. congressional delegation urged Cuba to lift travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats and agree to opening embassies in the coming months. While Cuba’s foreign minister said his country is “open to greater diplomatic and trade ties,” the delegation did not meet with President Raúl Castro, who will ultimately be responsible for much of the decision-making.

Central America

  • As the “mind-blowing” scale of violence in El Salvador mounts, the government’s proposed five-year plan to curb violence through prevention and initiative like prison reform, education, training programs and the construction of parks offers an alternative to the “Iron Fist” and zero-tolerance policies that have dominated the country for over a decade.
  • A Guatemalan court has ruled that former police chief Pedro García Arredondo is guilty of murdering 37 people who died in the country’s infamous 1980 Spanish Embassy fire — a massacre considered a defining moment in the Guatemalan civil war. The significance of the fire is remembered by documentary filmmaker and human rights activist Pamela Yates in a piece for NACLA.


  • After two and a half years of work, a pair of Peruvian reporters will publish a book this week that contains alleged evidence of the military’s involvement in the 1983 killings of eight reporters and their guide, contrary to the findings of a subsequent investigative commission headed by writer Mario Vargas Llosa.
  • Colombia’s tax code is inefficient and regressive, argues the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a report released Monday that calls on the government to raise taxes on dividends and carbon emissions while lowering the burden on businesses, a warning issued despite the signing into law of a widely praised tax reform package at the end of 2014.

Southern Cone

  • Brazil’s government has announced some $7.7 billion in tax hikes on imports, fuel and consumer loans, the latest measure aimed at tackling a large budget deficit as economic growth slows to a crawl and investors question the government’s financial discipline.
  • The Brazilian electricity provider ONS on Monday ordered rolling blackouts across a wide area of the country in an effort to avert a larger collapse of a system burdened by under-investment and record heat amid a historic drought.

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[…] for Fernández and others for their alleged role in covering up a 1994 terror bombing. Nisman was found dead by members of his security detail on Jan. 19 of a single gunshot wound to the head. He had been set […]

[…] signifies a formal renewal of the investigation begun by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, whose mysterious death on Jan. 18 came just hours before he was to testify against Fernández and other officials at a […]

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