Argentina, Southern Cone, Today in Latin America

Case Against President Cristina Fernández Dismissed

February 27, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — A federal judge in Argentina has dismissed a criminal complaint against President Cristina Fernández that has captivated the country since the prosecutor working on the case, Alberto Nisman, was found dead in his apartment in January, just hours before he was to testify against Fernández. Ruling that Nisman’s case was not sufficient to warrant a criminal investigation of Fernández, Judge Daniel Rafecas said that there was “not even circumstantial evidence” against the president.

Nisman, whose case was picked up by federal prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita following his death, had accused Fernández and other top officials of conspiring to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center in exchange for favorable trade conditions, particularly with respect to oil. The allegations, in tandem with Nisman’s mysterious death, prompted suspicion of Fernández, who didn’t help matters when she announced his death was a suicide early on, and then changed her tune and proclaimed it a murder.

“I dismiss the case because no crime was committed,” Rafecas said. Fernández did not respond to the judge’s ruling, but her interior minister announced on Twitter,”We always said Nisman’s complaint against Fernández was nonsense. A judge confirmed that today.”

Rafecas’ ruling comes as Argentine lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that will overhaul the country’s intelligence service, which played a central role in the controversy over Nisman’s case. Nisman’s evidence in the case against Fernández came in large part from former Argentine director of counterintelligence Antonio Stiusso, and Fernández has suggested that former intelligence agents were trying to smear her with Nisman’s death. Fernández and her supporters say the new legislation will reign in the maverick agency, but opponents say the bill changes very little.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • A company called CheapAir is the first website to offer flight options from the United States to Cuba, when it launched an option Thursday that allows travelers to book a flight from the United States to Mexico, and then from Mexico to Cuba, since no commercial airline has yet to offer regular, direct service between the two countries.
  • An increasing number of U.S. universities have started to openly offer financial aid to undocumented immigrants, a practice that has been going on for some time largely in secret.
  • Mexican officials have strongly condemned the fatal Feb. 20 police shooting in Texas of unarmed Mexican immigrant Rubén García Villalpando, which occurred 10 days after the deadly police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Washington state, which has galvanized the largely Hispanic community in Pasco, Washington in protest.

Caribbean

  • Television show host Conan O’Brien’s “Conan in Cuba” episode is set to air next Wednesday after he and his crew spent several days filming in Havana earlier this month, and will feature a visit to a cigar factory, a meal at a privately owned restaurant and interactions with Havana locals.
  • Puerto Rican officials urged U.S. legislators Thursday to let the island’s public corporations restructure their debt under the federal bankruptcy code given that the “fiscal and economic situation in Puerto Rico has reached a critical moment,” according to the president of Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank.
  • Additionally, a new bill in Puerto Rico will allow migrants living on the island illegally to open bank accounts and order checks, in a move that hopes to give migrants financial stability, according to Puerto Rico’s governor who signed the bill.

Central America

  • An infant has died of chikungunya in Honduras, the first death registered in the country resulting from the mosquito-borne virus, which has swept the region in recent months.

Andes

  • A Bolivian prosecutor on Thursday announced that an investigation would be held into the whereabouts of 10 missing paintings after a New York couple realized two paintings they owned had been stolen from a church in La Paz in 2002.
  • Ex-U.N. chief Kofi Annan arrived in Cuba on Thursday as part of an effort to lend his support to the ongoing peace talks between the administration of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and the rebels of the FARC, a process which Santos said in an interview he is confident will succeed before his term is up in 2018.

Southern Cone

  • A group of investors has convinced a U.S. judge to temporarily halt Argentina’s attempt to issue some $2 billion in bonds, demonstrating the influence wielded by the investors who were holdouts in an earlier default case and branded “vultures” by the Argentine government.
  • Volkswagen and Embraer are among the companies that have been called to testify in front of a panel of Brazilian legislators to determine whether the firms collaborated with the human rights abuses of the military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.
  • A government threat to heavily fine Brazilian truck drivers for continuing to protest on Thursday failed to discourage the bulk of demonstrators, whose highway blockades endured despite reports of a government offer aimed at helping cut the drivers’ operating costs.

Image: Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina, CC BY-SA 2.0

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