Argentina, Southern Cone, Today in Latin America

Accusations of Embezzlement in Battle Over Argentine Prosecutor’s Legacy

March 19, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — Argentina’s government on Wednesday lent its support to an accusation that the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman embezzled public funds while he was investigating President Cristina Fernández for allegedly conspiring with Iran to cover up the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Nisman’s aide Diego Lagomarsino told authorities on Wednesday that the prosecutor withheld around half of his 41,000 peso monthly salary, depositing it in a U.S. account.

The accusation by Lagomarsino, who is facing criminal charges for supplying Nisman with the gun that killed him, was echoed on the same day by Argentina’s cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández, who has no relation to the president. In his address to reporters the cabinet chief called Nisman a “scoundrel.”

The day before, Lagomarsino’s lawyer noted in a statement, published in part by Argentine newspaper Pagina/12, that the information regarding Nisman’s financial relationship with Lagomarsino would be released in the interest of transparency after Nisman’s ex-wife, judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, suggested Lagomarsino murdered his boss for economic reasons.

The lawyer lamented that these accusations could be used by the government to discredit Nisman. On Wednesday, Argentine philosopher Santiago Kovadloff said during a rally to commemorate the two-month anniversary of Nisman’s death that the government was doing exactly that.

These developments follow a report by the Brazilian magazine Veja (in Portuguese) which alleges that Venezuela’s government under Hugo Chávez acted as an intermediary between Iran and Fernández, passing along an offer by the former to provide campaign funds in exchange for covering up the 1994 bombing, of which Iran has long been accused, as well as expertise in nuclear energy. Veja based that report on interviews with three Chávez-era officials.

Nisman was found dead two months ago in his apartment of a gunshot wound to the head, a case which remains officially unsolved, although an independent inquiry by Arroyo concluded he was murdered.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio publicly acknowledged his violation of a 2011 court order that banned him from extra-legally detaining individuals based on nothing more than a suspicion that they were in the country illegally — a move that commentators speculate is an attempt by the controversial sheriff to avoid appearing in court in April over allegations of contempt.
  • Owing to favorable free-trade agreements, Mexico has surpassed the Southern United States as the preferred location for international automobile manufacturers to situate their factories, The Wall Street Journal reports.
  • The Texas Observer chronicles the life and activism of George I. Sánchez, “the most important Mexican-American intellectual between the Depression and the Great Society,” according to the scholarship of Texas A&M Professor Carlos Kevin Blanton, author of a new biography of Sánchez.

Caribbean

  • Jamaican gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson on Wednesday argued before the Caribbean Court of Justice that immigration laws in Trinidad & Tobago and Belize, banning the entry of gay individuals into both countries, violates right to travel laws established by the Caribbean Community — a charge that representatives of both countries have responded to by saying that the anti-sodomy laws are ignored when assessing whether visitors can cross the border.
  • Haitian officials have asked that the United Nations delay the plan to reduce the number of U.N. peacekeepers in the country from 5,021 to 2,370 by June, requesting that the cuts be made after legislative and presidential elections — which have recently been scheduled for August and October, respectively.
  • A Haiti prosecutor’s recommendation that charges be dropped against a man with ties to President Michel Martelly accused of leading a kidnapping ring exposes the potential conflicts-of-interest engendered by a system where the administration appoints prosecutors, according to human rights activists.

Central America

  • Costa Rica plans to move forward this week with a draft legislation allowing same-sex civil unions, Ana Gabriel Zúñiga, the presidency’s deputy minister, announced on Wednesday, while also stating that same-sex marriage will not be discussed.
  • Elusive Chinese billionaire Wang Jing, who is financing the transoceanic canal currently under construction in Nicaragua, sat down with the BBC for an exclusive interview, in which he addresses the criticisms leveled at the project, which argue that it will displace villagers and prove to be an environmental catastrophe.

Andes

  • The Venezuelan government late Tuesday released four citizens arrested in 2014 during a wave of anti-government protests, among them amateur photographer Christian Holdack, who is standing trial alongside opposition leader Leopoldo López for allegedly inciting violence during the protests.
  • Colombia’s 2015 revenue forecast for oil — the exportation of which constitutes approximately 20 percent of the government’s expenditure — has dropped by 60 percent from 2013, owing to a recent plunge in oil prices worldwide.
  • Indigenous communities in the department of Cauca in southwest Colombia are demanding the return of 141,000 hectares of land currently occupied by large-scale businesses — land which Indigenous leaders say is rightfully theirs — in an increasingly bitter, months-long confrontation that has left at least 100 protesters and seven soldiers injured, according to Colombia Reports.

Southern Cone

  • Brazilian former billionaire Eike Batista, once considered the seventh richest man in the world, received a fine worth 1.4 million reais ($432,000) on Wednesday due to his failure to inform investors of a takeover and the delisting of parts related to his EBX group.
  • Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro was elected secretary general of the Organization of American States on Wednesday, replacing Chilean diplomat José Mighel Insulza.

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