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ARGENTINA UP DATE – COMO LA ESTA MIRANDO EL MUNDO (Feb/03/2015)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By Simon Romero
Feb. 3, 2015
 
BUENOS AIRES — Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor whose mysterious death has gripped Argentina, had drafted a warrant for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accusing her of trying to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here, the lead investigator into his death said on Tuesday.
 
The 26-page document, which was found in the garbage at Mr. Nisman’s apartment, also requested the arrest of Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister. Both Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Timerman have repeatedly denied Mr. Nisman’s accusation that they tried to reach a secret deal with Iran to lift international arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the bombing.
 
The new revelation that Mr. Nisman had drafted arrest warrants for the president and the foreign minister further illustrates the heightened tensions between him and the government before he was found dead on Jan. 18 at his apartment with a gunshot wound to his head. He had been scheduled the next day to provide details before Congress about his accusations against Mrs. Kirchner.
 
“It would have provoked a crisis without precedents in Argentina,” said Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst, about the impact of the warrants if they had been issued. He acknowledged that previous legal cases had shaken Argentina’s political establishment, but he emphasized that this case involved a request to arrest a sitting president.
 
“It would have been a scandal on a level previously unseen,” Mr. Berensztein said.
 
Mrs. Kirchner, who is on a visit to China, issued a stream of updates on Twitter about strengthening ties between Buenos Aires and Beijing but did not comment immediately on the confirmation that Mr. Nisman had considered seeking her arrest. She and the foreign minister have previously pointed to statements by Interpol’s former director that the Argentine government did not lobby it to lift the Iranian arrest warrants.
 
Viviana Fein, the prosecutor investigating Mr. Nisman’s death, confirmed on Tuesday morning that Mr. Nisman had prepared the draft of the warrant requesting the president’s arrest. Confusion about the document had emerged when Ms. Fein had initially denied its existence, after the newspaper Clarín published an article on Sunday about the draft.
 
Mrs. Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, tore up the article before reporters on Monday. But then Ms. Fein corrected her earlier statement and confirmed the existence of the draft, which Clarín said was prepared in June 2014, more than six months before Mr. Nisman went public with his accusations against the president.
 
“The words I should have used are, ‘It’s evident that there was a draft,’  ” Ms. Fein said in comments broadcast on Argentine radio.
 
The draft of the arrest warrants was not included in a 289-page criminal complaint against Mrs. Kirchner, the foreign minister and prominent supporters of the president that Mr. Nisman filed. Mr. Nisman accused them of derailing his decade-long investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, commonly called AMIA, which left 85 people dead.
 
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Two judges have refused to take the case made by Mr. Nisman, raising the possibility that his complaint could languish in Argentina’s legal system if another judge is not found to continue it. A federal chamber is expected to decide who should take the case.
 
Mrs. Kirchner and senior officials have criticized Mr. Nisman’s complaint, disputing his findings and contending that agents from Argentina’s premier intelligence services were involved in preparing it. In the uproar around the prosecutor’s death, Mrs. Kirchner announced a plan last week to overhaul the intelligence agency, following a purge of its leadership in December.
 
Meanwhile, the investigation into Mr. Nisman’s death is proceeding as theories swirl in Argentina about whether it was a suicide or a killing. Mrs. Kirchner has suggested that Mr. Nisman’s death is part of a plot to tarnish her government.
 
Underscoring the tension surrounding the death of Mr. Nisman, who was buried at a Jewish cemetery last week, anti-Semitic posters began appearing in central Buenos Aires this week. They read: “The good Jew is the dead Jew. The good Jew is Nisman.”
 
Julio Schlosser, the president of the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations, said, “These posters represent a current of anti-Semitism seeking to insult the prosecutor Nisman, who worked and dedicated his life to the AMIA case.” He added, “It is also a provocation to the Jewish community.”
 
Jonathan Gilbert contributed reporting from Buenos Aires.
 
By Richard Lough Sarah Marsh
4 February 2015
 
BUENOS AIRES – An Argentine prosecutor found dead under mysterious circumstances last month had drafted a request that President Cristina Fernà¡ndez de Kirchner be arrested on allegations of conspiring to derail his probe into the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, the investigator into his death said Tuesday.
 
The papers were found in the trash at Alberto Nisman’s apartment while his property was being scoured for clues to whether the father of two had committed suicide or was murdered.
 
Nisman was found in a pool of blood with a single bullet wound to the head Jan. 18.
 
“The drafts are in the file,” Viviana Fein, the lead investigator into Nisman’s death, told a local radio station.
 
The request for Fernà¡ndez’s arrest, which the prominent pro- opposition daily newspaper Clarin said Nisman drafted in June, was not included in his final 350-page submission to the judiciary delivered days before his death. Instead, Nisman called for Fernà¡ndez to face questions in court.
 
On Monday, Fein’s office had denied the existence of the document containing the arrest request and the government denounced a Clarin story about it as “garbage.”
 
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich even dramatically tore up a copy of the paper in his daily news briefing. But on Tuesday, Fein backtracked, saying that there had been a misunderstanding between her and her office and that the documents did exist. “They are properly incorporated into the case file. Nothing is missing,” Fein said of the papers Tuesday.
 
Nisman spent almost a decade building a case that Iran was behind the 1994 attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association that killed 85 people. Iran’s government has repeatedly denied the allegation.
 
Nisman had been due the day after his death to answer questions in Congress about his allegations that Fernà¡ndez sought to cover up Iran’s involvement in return for Iranian oil. Fernà¡ndez has called the claim “absurd.”
 
Argentine judges appear to be reluctant to take on a case that some are calling a “judicial hot potato.” On Monday, two judges declined to hear the case. One is already presiding over separate charges of attempts to derail the investigation into the 1994 bombing.
 
The other coverup-related charges involve former president Carlos Menem, who ruled Argentina from 1989 to 1999.
 
Fernà¡ndez, who has come under fierce criticism for her handling of Nisman’s death, is on a trip to China.
 
 
Feb 3, 2015
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Investigators examining the death of a prosecutor who accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez of agreeing to shield the alleged masterminds of a 1994 terror bombing said Tuesday they have found a draft document he wrote requesting her arrest.
 
Chief investigator Viviana Fein said the draft detention request was found in a trash bin of the apartment where Alberto Nisman’s body was discovered on Jan. 18. It was not included in a complaint the prosecutor had filed in federal court days earlier.
 
“To formally go after a sitting president like this, especially somebody like Cristina, is a huge deal,” said James Cooper, professor at California Western School of Law and an expert on legal reform in Latin America. “It makes you wonder if Fein is getting pressure not to press the case further?”
 
Nisman was found dead of a gunshot wound in his bathroom hours before he was to appear in Congress to detail his allegations that Fernandez agreed to protect those responsible for the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’ largest Jewish community center. The attack, which killed 85 people, remains unsolved. Fernandez has dismissed the allegations against her.
 
Fein at first denied the existence of the document requesting the president’s arrest after Argentina’s Clarin newspaper published an article about it on Sunday. Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich ripped up the article in front of reporters on Monday and said it was a lie produced by the “opposition media.”
 
But Clarin then published a copy of the draft, which was dated from June 2014. It said Nisman also had considered requesting arrest orders against Fernandez’s foreign minister, Hector Timerman, and other officials in the government.
 
Fernandez’s government and Clarin often clash, and the Nisman case has reignited the dispute. For years, Fernandez has been trying to break up Grupo Clarin, one of the leading media conglomerates in Latin America, while her government works to build up a large media presence of its own.
 
On Tuesday, Fein clarified her earlier statement, acknowledging the existence of the draft document and saying she made an error of “terminology and interpretation,” and there had been a miscommunication with her office.
 
“The words I should have used are: ‘I know that there was a draft’” of a document, she said. But she said its existence “is not important enough to change the course of the investigation.”
 
The final complaint Nisman submitted to judicial authorities called for Fernandez and Timerman to face questions in court instead.
 
Why Nisman may have changed tack is unclear, but it brings the focus back to Fernandez, who has tried to distance herself from the case, in part by suggesting rogue elements in intelligence services were behind Nisman’s death.
 
She is currently in China seeking investments, and before she left she submitted a proposal to Congress to reform the Secretary of Intelligence. A Senate committee took up the bill on Tuesday.
 
Conspiracy theories have swirled around Nisman’s death since his body was found. Authorities initially said he likely committed suicide, but his supporters insisted the prosecutor would not have killed himself and even Fernandez has said that, contrary to initial findings, his death could not have been a suicide.
 
Nisman had spent almost a decade building up a case that Iran was behind the 1994 attack on the Jewish center. Iran’s government has repeatedly denied the allegation.
 
Nisman had feared for his safety and 10 federal police were assigned to protect him. The officers were suspended as part of the investigation but none have been named as suspects.
 
Nisman alleged that Fernandez agreed to cover up Iran involvement in the bombing in exchange for trade benefits, especially in oil. Fernandez has argued Argentina had nothing to gain from such a deal.
 
 
 
By Almudena Calatrava and Debora Rey
Februay 3, 2015
 
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s clandestine spy agency has a notoriously dark past that includes its failure to prevent a major attack on a Jewish community center, then allegedly sabotaging the investigation into what happened.
 
Operating with autonomy — and many critics argue, frequent impunity — the intelligence gathering groups under the umbrella of the Secretary of Intelligence have been used by governments dating back to the military dictatorship of the early 1970s to gather dirt on opponents.
 
“Everybody knew how the Secretary of Intelligence worked,” said Gaston Chillier, executive director of the Center for Legal and Social Studies, an Argentine think tank. “But nobody wanted to say anything because their services were needed, or because of fear.”
 
Argentina’s Congress on Tuesday began debating a proposal to reform the clandestine service, whose alleged transgressions have ranged from simple corruption to helping the former military government identify many of the thousands of political detractors who were disappeared or killed.
 
Lawmakers held the extraordinary session two weeks after prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found shot dead Jan. 18, hours before he was to detail allegations that President Cristina Fernandez helped Iran cover up the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people. Fernandez has rejected Nisman’s claims and suggested that rogue intelligence operatives were behind his death.
 
Hugo Anzorreguy, former head of the Secretary of Intelligence, is awaiting trial for allegedly heading a plot to derail the investigation into the bombing, which has never been solved. Former President Carlos Menem is also being tried in the case.
 
The 22-page reform bill Fernandez put forward would create a new agency with stricter presidential controls, streamline declassification of documents and increase punishments for agents acting outside the law. It was taken up by a Senate committee.
 
Creating a new intelligence agency presents huge challenges, from operational changes to shifting attitudes among political leaders. Fernandez has acknowledged the presidency doesn’t fully control Argentina’s intelligence services. But her Judicialist Party, going back to the term of her predecessor and late husband, Nestor Kirchner, has used the country’s spies for its own ends.
 
“What’s needed is a cultural change” in how intelligence services are used, said Horacio Lutzky, author of “Delivering on the Rubble,” a book about bungled investigations of the Jewish center bombing. “It’s not going to happen in one year.”
 
The bill lays out a broad framework for replacing the current spy service with a new “National Federal Intelligence Agency.”
 
Gathered intelligence would be delivered to the Public Ministry, which would be the only entity empowered to initiate legal action. Currently, intelligence goes to a different department inside the same agency.
 
The bill also creates new categories for classified information, sets a 25-year time limit for declassification of intelligence files, and increases sentences for agents found operating above the law.
 
It does not, however, say how the changes would purge alleged bad apples from the ranks. It states that within 90 days of the new agency’s creation, all assets would be transferred from the current entity and personnel would “maintain their respective levels, degrees and categories” of employment.
 
The legislation “changes the collar but leaves us the same dog,” Miguel Angel Toma, former director of Secretary of Intelligence, told The Associated Press.
 
Toma said he worried that a transition period would create a power vacuum inside the intelligence community. He noted that several top agents had been fired in recent months, including Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso. Local news reports say Stiuso oversaw a vast wire-tapping operation.
 
Fernandez has said Stiuso fed Nisman false information about alleged spies, and she has even suggested that Stiuso wrote Nisman’s 289-page report detailing his case against her. The president has not elaborated on those allegations, and Stiuso’s current whereabouts are unknown.
 
Opposition parties criticized how quickly the legislation was written.
 
“It’s regrettable that the president has decided to make this an express proposal,” Congresswoman Cornelia Schmidt-Liermann said. “That doesn’t create consensus.”
 
Perhaps the biggest question is whether any reform can prevent Argentine presidents from using the intelligence services for their own ends. Such use intensified during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983, when intelligence services helped the ruling generals identify detractors, thousands of whom were killed or disappeared.
 
The government’s alleged use of its intelligence services recently raised eyebrows again when an international journalist fled Argentina, claiming he was followed by agents after being the first to report on Nisman’s death.
 
When Damian Pachter told a journalism association he was leaving the country, government news agency Telam published an itinerary that showed he was flying to neighboring Uruguay and had a return ticket to Buenos Aires — an apparent effort to question his credibility.
 
 
By Taos Turner
4 February 2015
 
BUENOS AIRES — Months before his mysterious death two weeks ago, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman had drafted papers requesting the arrest of President Cristina Kirchner and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, on charges that they tried to sabotage his investigation into a 1994 terrorist attack on this city’s main Jewish center.
 
For reasons that are unclear, Mr. Nisman didn’t seek their arrest in the 289-page criminal complaint he filed last month, which charged that the government had tried to shield Iran from being investigated for the bombing. But as late as June, Mr. Nisman had included a request for their arrest in an earlier draft, according to a report published by the newspaper Clarin on Sunday and confirmed publicly by officials on Tuesday.
 
Mr. Nisman was found dead, with a bullet wound to his head, on Jan. 18, a day before he was to present his report to Argentina’s congress.
 
A request for the arrest of a sitting president, which would have required approval from a judge, would have been unprecedented in modern Argentina. Prosecutors said on Tuesday it was unlikely a judge would have approved the request.
 
Mrs. Kirchner, who was in China drumming up investments, didn’t comment on the latest twist in a case that has gripped this country. She has issued two long letters, though, in which she questioned Mr. Nisman’s work. Mr. Timerman and other government officials have insisted that they weren’t trying to whitewash the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA, but rather seeking to work with Iran to resolve it. Mr. Nisman and other prosecutors have for years said that Iran orchestrated the attack on the center, killing 85 people.
 
Investigators who worked with Mr. Nisman haven’t spoken publicly about his death and couldn’t be reached to comment on the draft.
 
It is unclear if the case Mr. Nisman was pursuing that was outlined in his 289-page report would be investigated by a federal court. Judge Ariel Lijo refused to accept the case, he said on Monday. Another judge, Daniel Rafecas, is studying it, an assistant said on Tuesday. Two federal court officials said in interviews on Tuesday that it was likely a judge would soon be designated to handle the case.
 
After initially denying the existence of the draft calling for the president’s arrest on Monday, Viviana Fein, the lead investigator into Mr. Nisman’s death, altered her position on Tuesday and confirmed it had been found in Mr. Nisman’s trash can some time after his death. She added that she hadn’t come under pressure from the government.
 
“I’m an independent person,” said Ms. Fein. “I know how to do my job.”
 
The newspaper Clarin’s report about the draft angered Argentine officials, who accused the media company of trying to ruin the government’s reputation. On Monday, Jorge Capitanich, Mrs. Kirchner’s cabinet chief, held up a copy of the newspaper report at a news conference and shredded it into pieces.
 
“This is all trash. All lies, all the time,” he said.
 
The timing of Mr. Nisman’s death has led to speculation in Argentina that he was murdered, although an autopsy determined he had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .22-caliber handgun.
 
Polls indicate that a majority of Argentines believe investigators will never clarify how or exactly why he died.
 
 
3 February 2015
 
Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor whose mysterious death has gripped Argentina, had drafted a warrant for the arrest of President Cristima Fernandez de Kirchner, accusing her of trying to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here, the lead investigator into his death said on Tuesday.
 
The 26-page document, which was found in the garbage at Nisman’s apartment, also requested the arrest of Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister. Both Kirchner and Timerman have repeatedly denied Nisman’s accusation that they tried to reach a secret deal with Iran to lift international arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the bombing.
 
The new revelation that Nisman had drafted arrest warrants for the president and the foreign minister further illustrates the heightened tensions between him and the government before he was found dead on Jan. 18 at his apartment with a gunshot wound to his head. He had been scheduled the next day to provide details before Congress about his accusations against Kirchner.
 
 
By Oren Dorell
4 February 2015
 
Before his death, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman had drafted an arrest warrant for the country’s president in connection with an alleged secret deal with Iran to cover up the bombing of a Jewish community center two decades ago, the chief investigator of Nisman’s death said Tuesday.
 
Nisman was found dead in his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head Jan.18, one day before he was to present details of the case to Argentina’s Congress about his accusations against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman.
 
The 26-page arrest warrant naming Kirchner, Timerman and other members of her government was found in a trash can at Nisman’s apartment after his body was found, prosecutor Viviana Fein said.
 
“The drafts are there,” Fein said in a radio interview on Vorterix, according to Bloomberg News.
 
Kirchner, who at first said Nisman’s death was a suicide, later said it was part of a plot to destroy her politically.
 
The latest revelation probably means Nisman intended to file arrest warrants after spelling out his findings to Argentina’s lawmakers, said Mark Dubowitz, a friend of Nisman’s and executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank.
 
Nisman in 2006 had accused members of Iran and its Lebanese Shiite ally, Hezbollah, in the 1994 bombing that killed 85 people in Buenos Aires. He had issued eight arrest warrants. In 2013, Kirchner signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran to jointly investigate the case. That agreement was declared unconstitutional by an Argentine court last year.
 
Nisman had accused Kirchner of reaching the deal to shield Iran from prosecution in return for access to Iranian oil. Fein is investigating whether Nisman committed suicide or was murdered.
 
The arrest warrants were not part of an 289-page criminal complaint against Kirchner, Timerman and their supporters that Nisman had filed, according to The New York Times.
 
Kirchner has said that Nisman was overly influenced by her enemies among Argentina’s intelligence services, and she called last week for the country’s spy service to be disbanded.
 
 
By Benedict Mander
February 3, 2015
 
Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor found dead in mysterious circumstances last month, had drafted an arrest warrant for President Cristina Fernández, the lead investigator into his death confirmed on Tuesday.
 
The existence of the document, which was found in a rubbish bin in Mr Nisman’s flat, had initially been denied by the investigator, as well as by a top government official who on Monday ripped up an opposition newspaper containing reports about the document in front of television cameras.
 
It is the latest twist in a saga that has gripped Argentines divided over whether Mr Nisman’s death was the result of suicide or murder, after he accused the president and other officials last month of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of a Jewish community centre in 1994 that left 85 people dead.
 
Analysts say the political crisis that has erupted since Mr Nisman’s death — the day before he was due to present his findings to congress — could improve the opposition’s chances in presidential elections in October, although Ms Fernández cannot stand.
 
Viviana Fein, the prosecutor investigating Mr Nisman’s death, said there had been a “bad interpretation or an involuntary error”, when admitting the mistake in her office’s earlier press release denying the existence of Mr Nisman’s draft of the arrest warrant, which was also aimed at foreign minister Héctor Timerman.
 
“I am under no pressure in my job, not from the government or anyone else. I am an independent person,” said Ms Fein, after her immediate superior, Ricardo Sáenz, suggested that it was “clear that they want to get Fein off the case”.
 
Meanwhile, two judges have refused to take the highly politically charged case made by Mr Nisman, raising fears that his complaint could linger in Argentina’s legal system if no judge is found to continue it. A federal chamber is due to decide who should take it.
 
Mr Nisman’s accusations have been repeatedly denied by Ms Fernández and other officials. The president has speculated that rogue spies may have been behind the death of the prosecutor, whom she says they manipulated and fed with bogus information.
 
Ms Fernández last week announced a plan to overhaul the intelligence agency, which was involved in the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of thousands of Argentines during the so-called “dirty war” from 1976-83.
 
The overhaul follows a purge of the agency’s leadership in December that some speculate may have triggered the filing of Mr Nisman’s criminal complaint in January.
 
Government officials have dismissed his central accusation that Argentina was trying to remove Interpol arrest warrants on Iranian officials in return for oil. They cite assurances from Ronald Noble, Interpol’s secretary-general from 2000 to 2014, that their commitment to maintaining the warrants has never wavered.
 
 
By Daniel CancelPablo Rosendo Gonzalez
February  3, 2015
 
(Bloomberg) — A day after Argentina’s cabinet chief tore up a newspaper article, ridiculing the story that said deceased prosecutor Alberto Nisman had considered the arrest of the president, the investigator into his death confirmed the report.
 
A draft document calling for the detention of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and members of her government was found in Nisman’s apartment after his body was discovered with a bullet to the head on Jan. 18, prosecutor Viviana Fein said.
 
“The drafts are there, they’ve been incorporated as part of my role,” Fein said in a radio interview on Vorterix. “They have to do with the allegations by doctor Nisman, as was anticipated by the media, seeking the arrest of the president.”
 
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich on Feb. 2 tore up a copy of the article published in Clarin on Sunday that said Nisman had sought Fernandez’s arrest for trying to cover up the alleged Iranian involvement in the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history. The draft document, which Clarin published, was dated June 2014 and was found in the trash can of Nisman’s house, the newspaper reported.
 
Fein said a statement published Feb. 2 by the general prosecutor’s office denying the existence of the draft was an error.
 
Operation Trash
Capitanich, who spoke today at the same time as Fein, said Clarin’s reporting of the case was another “operation by the press, looking through the trash.” He didn’t say if the draft document existed or not.
 
Secretary General Anibal Fernandez described Fein’s contradictions as an “embarrassment” and asked whether someone had given her the document. While questioning the report’s authenticity, he also said its discovery in the garbage was proof that Nisman knew his accusations wouldn’t stand up in court.
 
“Nisman must have realized what rubbish it was and so he had to backpedal,” Fernandez said in an interview on La Red radio station.
 
The draft document was not part of the broader dossier of evidence against President Fernandez that prosecutors have published on the Internet.
 
The 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires killed 85 people.
 
Nisman’s body was found the day before he was due to present evidence for his allegations to congress. The discovery of his body slumped against the door of his bathroom in a locked house surrounded by security agents triggered a series of conspiracy theories. Fernandez has said she is convinced he was killed in order to dirty the reputation of her government, while others suspect he was murdered to halt his investigation.
 
 
By Brian Winter
Tue, Feb 3 2015
 
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Anita Weinstein was on the second floor of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994 when the ceiling and walls collapsed from the force of a truck bomb outside.
 
Disoriented, and terrified by the screaming and sudden darkness, she still managed to climb down through the rubble and call her daughter to tell her she was OK.
 
The emotions of that day came rushing back two weeks ago, when her daughter called with news that Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating the bombing at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), had been found dead with a bullet to the head in his Buenos Aires apartment.
 
“It was the same lack of comprehension, like my head is somewhere and my body is somewhere else,” Weinstein said. “And then, once that passed, the same fear that we may never know what really happened.”
 
Survivors of the AMIA bombing and many other Argentines are losing hope that either Nisman’s death or the 1994 attack will ever be solved, pointing to their government’s often erratic behavior and a long national history of murky political crimes for which no one gets punished.
 
Many at the AMIA, which has been rebuilt, refer to Nisman as “the 86th death” – a reference to the 85 who died in what has been called the deadliest attack on a Jewish target since World War Two, and Nisman’s own dedication to the cause.
 
Nisman spent almost a decade building a case that Iran was behind the AMIA bombing – which Iran has rigorously denied.
 
Just days before he was found dead on Jan. 18, Nisman accused President Cristina Fernandez of trying to stymie his investigation in order to receive economic favors from Iran.
 
Fernandez has dismissed that accusation as absurd and says she believes Nisman was murdered as part of a conspiracy involving rogue spies. But she has not offered any evidence, no one has been arrested in connection with such a crime, and investigators still say it may have been a suicide.
 
In a poll released last week, 72 percent of Argentines said they believed Nisman’s death will remain unsolved and 62 percent did not believe the government’s accounting of what happened.
 
“Those numbers might seem high … but it’s a place with a history of different governments being involved in apparent cover-ups,” said Nicolas Shumway, author of two books on Argentine history and a dean at Rice University.
 
“There’s a reason people don’t expect justice.”
 
UNSOLVED ‘SUICIDES’
Fernandez herself, in a meandering 2,800-word Facebook post on Jan. 22 regarding Nisman’s death, referred to four politically related “suicides” – the quotation marks were hers – that “were never clarified.”
 
They included a suspect in an arms scandal involving the government at the time who, like Nisman, died of a gunshot in his home in 1998; and a businessman and key suspect in a separate corruption case, found hanged that same year.
 
One of the most notorious Argentine mysteries is the 1995 death of then-President Carlos Menem’s son in what his government long insisted was a helicopter accident. Years passed before Menem publicly admitted he believed his son was murdered, for reasons that remain murky.
 
With little faith in the judicial system or their politicians, some at the AMIA prefer to focus on ensuring the victims are never forgotten.
 
The first names of the 85 dead are sketched on the heavily fortified barrier wall outside the building.
“Remembering the pain that will not cease,” an inscription reads.
 
A separate plaque inside commemorates the 29 dead from a separate bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992.
 
Despite those attacks, Nisman’s death, and incidents such as anti-Semitic posters plastered in a Buenos Aires neighborhood this weekend, Weinstein and many others at the AMIA said they felt generally strong support from Argentine society.
 
They pointed to large turnout at events supporting the AMIA in recent years, including last week’s commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day which drew hundreds, including representatives from Congress and City Hall.
 
In 2010, Buenos Aires archbishop Jorge Bergoglio – who later became Pope Francis – visited the AMIA and called the bombing “one more link in the chain of pain and persecution that God’s chosen people have suffered throughout history.”
 
Argentina has Latin America’s largest Jewish community, at an estimated 250,000 people, many descended from immigrants who fled oppression in Europe in the early 20th century for what was then one of the world’s richest countries.
 
Numerous national traumas in years since, including an oppressive dictatorship that killed thousands in the 1970s, convinced many Argentines of the need to speak out against terror and injustice, no matter who is targeted, Weinstein said.
 
“Through difficult experiences … we’ve learned the value of democracy, and solidarity,” she said. “People see what happened here as an aggression against all of Argentine society.”
 
By Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez, Pierpaolo Barbieri
February 4, 2015
 
A tantalizing new piece of evidence has been found in the mysterious death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Can President Kirchner survive the brewing political scandal?
 
The new year has already proven itself a veritable boom time for Latin American scandals. There’s disappearing billions in Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, there’s disappearing (likely murdered) students in Mexico, and Venezuela’s delectable scandal du jour involves a bodyguard turning U.S. state’s witness to allege that the second most powerful man in the government in Caracas has been moonlighting as a narco-cartel kingpin. Yet even in the competitive field of Latin American corruption and hijinks, it is the suspicious death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Argentina on Jan. 18 and its aftermath that seem most likely to have a definitive and transformative impact on one country — and perhaps the whole region.
 
Nisman was found dead in his luxury high-rise apartment, his door locked from the inside, and a gun with a spent cartridge on the floor nearby. The death took place 12 hours before Nisman was supposed to testify to Congress. Police initially thought it was a suicide. The bumbling government response and the particular timing during the run-up to October’s presidential elections — not to mention the most recent revelation that Nisman had drafted an arrest warrant for the president and her foreign minister — have created a perfect storm for Argentina’s sitting government. A population clamoring for answers is coming to see that the only way to get them might be a new administration, Peronist or otherwise, that would dramatically break with the politics of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
 
As lead prosecutor, Nisman had been investigating the case of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AIMA), a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that was bombed in 1994, killing 85 and injuring hundreds. It was the worst terrorist attack in South American history — an incident that still reverberates in the hearts and minds of Argentines today. (At a recent memorial for the bombing, survivors and victims’ families symbolically added Nisman’s name to the list of victims.)
 
The initial investigation, launched immediately after the attack, had been a shambles, resulting in no convictions and scant indictments. There were abundant allegations of impropriety, evidence suppression, and bribery. Nisman’s appointment in July 2004 — 10 years after the attack — by former President Néstor Kirchner, Cristina’s late husband, was meant to represent a fresh start, a redoubling of the government’s efforts to finally bring justice. And yet from the start, Nisman’s findings, linking the crime back to Iran, often seemed to run contrary to the diplomatic policies of Argentina’s increasingly leftist leadership, particularly following Néstor Kirchner’s 2010 death and the radicalization of his wife and successor, who cozied up to Iran and Venezuela.
 
The increasingly stormy relationship between Cristina Kirchner and Nisman continued to build. Mere days before his death, Nisman filed a nearly 300-page legal brief that directly implicated the president, her foreign minister, and key members of her administration in covering up Iranian responsibility for the terrorist attack and canceling outstanding international warrants for certain Iranian officials so that closer diplomatic and commercial ties would not be damaged. The brief alleged that an oil-for-grain deal with Tehran to ease Argentina’s ongoing energy woes was the incentive for this cover-up. It has since emerged that an original, un-submitted version of Nisman’s brief even sought the imprisonment of Kirchner and some of her closest collaborators, with Nisman going as far as to have drafted a 26-page arrest warrant for the president and her foreign minister.
 
Nisman’s investigation has come under fire in some corners. A high profile figure at Interpol (which was among the first to finger Iran for the AIMA bombing) criticized some of Nisman’s claims as false, while a board member at Human Rights Watch Americas recently published a scathing op-ed calling the brief “weak” and lacking references to jurisprudence.
 
Yet while the full details of Nisman’s investigation are not yet public, leaked tapes and documents suggest there may be some merit at least to his claim that the Kirchner administration may have wilfully undermined the investigation by, for example, setting up a parallel investigative joint commission with the Iranians themselves in 2013. For a government that has long made human rights a lynchpin of its rhetoric, accusations that justice may have been subverted in the name of commercial expediency would run deeply counter to the image that Kirchner has tried to convey since as far back as her time as first lady, that of a defender of human rights making up for Argentina’s notorious history.
 
The president remained uncharacteristically silent throughout the initial hours after Nisman’s death. This caginess was short-lived, however, and she soon published two long letters on Facebook within three days. The first toyed with the suicide thesis that the government had been pushing, while the second professed her conviction that Nisman had been murdered. Soon after, the president appeared on television to defend herself. But hours later, the new prosecutor in the case was seen on TV openly contradicting a president who was involving herself in the investigation, going to great lengths to question the late prosecutor’s travel schedule and the authorship of his indicting brief. (Recent polling suggests no less than 70 percent of Argentines disapproved of Kirchner’s televised message, not only because she failed to send her condolences to Nisman’s family, but also because she seemed to keep attacking the prosecutor posthumously.)
 
Nisman’s mysterious death has drawn increased national and international attention to the contents of the investigation itself. But it likewise draws attention to the recent Kirchnerite embrace of Iran, a move that many Argentines strongly opposed given the government’s previous line on that country’s likely culpability for the 1994 attack. This new affiliation was a page from the book of close regional ally Hugo Chávez, and one that now seems increasingly shortsighted at a time when low oil prices have Iranian (and Venezuelan) influence on the wane.
 
Argentina’s presidential election this October will deliver the first Kirchner-less administration since 2003. Ahead of that, Cristina Kirchner has hopes of shoring up her legacy. With the Nisman scandal and her discombobulated response — first claiming it was a suicide before then blaming rogue intelligence agents — she has lost the ability to shape the political conversation, perhaps for the first time in her two terms as president.
 
Today (and for the foreseeable future) the only story in Argentina anybody cares about is the Nisman investigation: its details, its inconsistencies, and its implications. For 10 days, newspapers’ front pages and TV news have dealt with little else. The latest polls suggested that no less than 98 percent of people were aware of Nisman’s death and the investigation into Kirchner’s role in covering up the bombing. And 68 percent of Argentines worry that they may never truly know what happened. The case, which seems straight out of a Hollywood spy movie, has eclipsed any previous concerns about Argentina’s sovereign debt default, government corruption scandals, and even the disastrous economic policies that have delivered three years of steady stagflation and a veritable carousel of economic crises.
 
With initial claims of suicide now largely discarded, the question of who is responsible remains open and speculation is rampant: Was it Iranian intrigue? Mossad intrigue made to look like Iranian intrigue? At present, Argentina’s own famously unruly intelligence apparatus is the primary focus of suspicion, having garnered accusations from the CIA, Iranian state media, the Argentine opposition, and, of course, Kirchner herself.
 
The president’s relationship with the intelligence services has long been complicated. She often seemed hostile toward the country’s intelligence brass; then again, some former intelligence officers have claimed the president was close to certain groups and “enjoyed” listening to wiretaps of opposition leaders. And at present Kirchner is pushing to have the intelligence secretariat dissolved outright. So if deadly spy games were indeed behind this, were the killers Kirchner’s secret service members acting upon (or misinterpreting) a presidential cue to “be rid of” a troublesome prosecutor? Or was it rogue agents or former agents seeking to undermine Kirchner in response to a recent purge of the intelligence apparatus?
 
The ubiquity of such speculative conversations now circulating in Argentina is dredging up old and uncomfortable ghosts. Between 1976 and 1983, tens of thousands of Argentines were “disappeared” under a brutal military junta, leaving distraught friends and family to speculate as to their actual fate — much as they are doing now for Nisman. Similarly, the fleeing of the reporter initially covering the death there in fear to Tel Aviv (like Nisman, he was Jewish) and new reports of anti-Semitic, anti-Nisman posters in Buenos Aires are reopening old wounds — particularly within Argentina’s influential Jewish community of around 300,000. This is a history that stretches back further than the bombing at the heart of the Nisman scandal, all the way to when Nazi war criminals like Adolf Eichmann were given asylum and kept close by the Perón administration.
 
Ultimately, the prosecutor is more dangerous to the Kirchner legacy in death than he ever was in life. There are eight months until the presidential contest in Argentina, but barring a miracle, Kirchner seems unlikely to be able to come back from this political debacle, her post-presidential influence will be tapered, and with it any hope should she dream of returning to power someday. (She is not barred from running for president again in 2019.) Eighty percent of Argentines believe the scandal will damage her government and over 60 percent say it will do so “gravely.”
 
In the race to succeed Kirchner, every presidential hopeful is trying to distance him- or herself from a president whose reputation has become increasingly toxic. The usually hierarchical Peronist Party is suddenly awash with voices of dissent, while the usually atomized opposition, led by presidential hopefuls Sergio Massa and Mauricio Macri, has been marshaling the promise of an independent investigation into issues surrounding both the Nisman murder and the AIMA bombing — a popular position. People want answers, and in a closely fought contest, their curiosity may yet finish off Kirchner politically once and for all.
 
 
By Taos Turner
3 February 2015
 
BUENOS AIRES–Months before his mysterious death two weeks ago, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman had drafted papers requesting the arrest of President Cristina Kirchner and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, on charges that they tried to sabotaged his investigation into a 1994 terrorist attack on this city’s main Jewish center.
 
For reasons that are unclear, Mr. Nisman didn’t seek their arrest in the 289-page criminal complaint he filed last month, which charged that the government had tried to shield Iran from being investigated for the bombing. But as late as June, Mr. Nisman had included a request for their arrest in an earlier draft, according to a report published by the newspaper Clarín on Sunday and confirmed publicly by officials on Tuesday.
 
Mr. Nisman was found dead, with a bullet wound to his head, on Jan. 18, a day before he was to present the 289-page report to Argentina’s congress.
 
A request for the arrest of a sitting president, which would have required approval from a judge, would have been unprecedented in modern Argentina. Prosecutors said on Tuesday it was unlikely a judge would have approved the request.
 
Mrs. Kirchner, who was in China drumming up investments, didn’t comment on the latest twist in a case that has gripped this country. She has issued two long letters, though, in which she questioned Mr. Nisman’s work. Mr. Timerman and other government officials have insisted that they weren’t trying to whitewash the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA, but rather seeking to work with Iran to resolve it. Mr. Nisman and other prosecutors have for years said that Iran orchestrated the attack on the center, killing 85 people.
 
Investigators who worked with Mr. Nisman haven’t spoken publicly about his death and couldn’t be reached for comment on the draft.
 
It is unclear if the case Mr. Nisman was pursuing that was outlined in his 289-page report would be investigated by a federal court. Judge Ariel Lijo refused to accept the case, he said on Monday. Another judge, Daniel Rafecas, is studying it, an assistant said on Tuesday. Two federal court officials said in interviews on Tuesday that it was likely a judge would soon be designated to handle the case.
 
After initially denying the existence of the draft calling for the president’s arrest on Monday, Viviana Fein, the lead investigator into Mr. Nisman’s death, altered her position on Tuesday and confirmed it had been found in Mr. Nisman’s trash can some time after his death. She added that she had not come under pressure from the government.
 
“I’m an independent person,” said Ms. Fein. “I know how to do my job.”
 
Ms. Fein said she planned to go on vacation for two weeks starting on Feb. 18.
 
The newspaper Clarín’s report about the draft angered Argentine officials, who accused the media company of trying to ruin the government’s reputation. On Monday, Jorge Capitanich, Mrs. Kirchner’s cabinet chief, held up a copy of the newspaper report at a news conference and shredded it into pieces.
 
“This is all trash. All lies, all the time,” he said.
 
The timing of Mr. Nisman’s death has led to speculation in Argentina that he was murdered, although an autopsy determined he had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .22-caliber handgun. Polls indicate that a majority of Argentines believe investigators will never clarify how or exactly why he died.
 
Although Ms. Fein has stood by the autopsy results, which determined that he died in his bathroom after firing one shot into his head, she has also said she would follow the evidence wherever it may lead. Additionally, she has said she would not rule out that someone may have “induced” Mr. Nisman into killing himself.
 
President Kirchner has added to the mystery by saying she is convinced Mr. Nisman didn’t commit suicide.
 
Since Mr. Nisman’s death, government officials, led by Mrs. Kirchner, have alleged that Clarín is part of a broad conspiracy involving the media, former intelligence agents and judges to topple the government. Clarín has denied the charges and on Monday it said the government had crossed a line in tearing up a copy of its newspaper.
 
Mr. Capitanich “could have questioned the report, rebutted it or denied its contents, and that debate would be valid and legitimate,” the newspaper said. “But the government opted to stigmatize and punish [Clarín’s journalists] with unprecedented violence,” he said, referring to the public shredding of the newspaper.
 
 
By David Fitzpatrick, Drew Griffin and Mariano Castillo, CNN
February 3, 2015
 
Buenos Aires (CNN)—The Argentine prosecutor who was found dead after accusing the government of a cover-up had drafted an affidavit seeking the arrest of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the lead investigator in the case said Tuesday.
 
The untimely death of Alberto Nisman — a special prosecutor investigating a 1994 terrorist attack in Buenos Aires — raised suspicions from the start.
 
President: Nisman’s death not a suicide
 
The revelation that Nisman had not just accused Fernandez of covering up Iran’s role in the bombing, but sought an arrest warrant for her, is likely to fan the flames of the conspiracy theories that have abounded since his death.
 
The draft document calling for the President’s arrest was found in a trash can in Nisman’s apartment, lead investigator Viviana Fein said. The document also called for the arrests of Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and several political supporters of the President.
 
The existence of the draft arrest affidavit was first brought to light by the Argentine newspaper Clarin. On Sunday, the paper published its story, including images of the document.
 
The government responded by calling Clarin’s report “garbage.”
 
Affidavit warns of pressure on judicial system
 
Fernandez’s Cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, ripped up a copy of the offending article during a news conference. And Fein, the lead investigator in Nisman’s death, also reportedly denied that such an arrest affidavit existed.
 
On Tuesday, however, Fein released a statement saying that there had been a miscommunication. She admitted the document existed and that it was included among the many documents gathered by police from Nisman’s apartment. All the documents are awaiting analysis, she said.
 
The draft affidavit warns the would-be judge that Fernandez, Timerman and the other subjects of his complaint could exert pressure on the judicial system, Clarin reported. Those he accuses, Nisman wrote, have a “total lack of scruples.”
 
Fernandez, who is on a trip to China, did not immediately make any public comments on the matter.
 
Whatever Nisman may have contemplated, he never filed for arrest warrants, the state-run Telam news agency noted.
 
State media also highlighted Fein’s comments that her initial denial of the existence of the draft documents was the result of a clerical error and not any government pressure.
 
What really happened?
 
Nisman, 51, was found dead on January 18. A gun and shell casing by his body made it appear to be a suicide, but suspicions were confirmed when a test found no gunpowder residue on his hands, as would be expected if he had pulled the trigger.
 
Fein said on Tuesday that a second test for gunpowder would be carried out to confirm the result.
 
For 10 years, Nisman had been investigating the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history: the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded.
 
Nisman’s body was found inside the bathroom in his luxury 13th-floor apartment in a swank Buenos Aires neighborhood. He had a 10-man security team guarding him, but he reportedly dismissed them only hours before his body was discovered.
 
The night before Nisman died, he spoke with opposition congresswoman Patricia Bullrich. Nisman was preparing to present his shocking report before the congressional committee that Bullrich chairs, and he asked about his safety.
 
“He said, ‘Are you going to guarantee my security’?” Bullrich recalled. Yes, she told him.
 
Fifteen hours later, Nisman was dead.
 
Prosecutor filled with fear before death, friend says
 
Massive cover-up of bombing alleged
 
Nisman’s nearly 300-page report pointed to an alleged massive cover-up of who was behind the 1994 bombing. Arrest warrants were issued in 2006 for eight Iranian nationals believed responsible for the attack.
 
But in his report, Nisman claimed that Fernandez’s government helped orchestrate a bargain with Iran: Cash-strapped Argentina would get Iranian oil. Iran would get Argentine grain and meat. And the bombing would remain unsolved.
 
“The most important information in the investigation (by) Nisman is the Argentine government (wants) to take away (Iran’s responsibility in) the bombing of AMIA,” Bullrich said. “They want to destroy the investigation of the Argentine justice.”
 
The target of the bombing was the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, known as AMIA.
 
A .22-caliber pistol was found by Nisman’s body. Investigators said the DNA found on both the gun and Nisman’s clothing was from him alone.
 
Diego Lagomarsino, a former aide to Nisman, told reporters that he had given Nisman the gun. Why? He said Nisman asked for the gun because his daughters had become afraid of his security team.
 
Fernandez took to Facebook to first call the prosecutor’s death a suicide. A few days later, she changed her mind. In a posting, the President said she now believed that Nisman had, in fact, been murdered but it was actually a plot against her — to kill the prosecutor who was on the verge of disclosing potentially damaging and false information about her.
 
In other words, she said Nisman was killed to make her look guilty.
 
Fernandez said all of this from behind closed doors. But a week after Nisman’s body was found, she appeared on national television. Dressed in a white pantsuit and speaking from a wheelchair because she had suffered a broken ankle, she called for the dissolution of Argentina’s intelligence service, believing the spy service was trying to incriminate her in Nisman’s death.
 
She told the nation that “groups of prosecutors, groups of judges, anonymous informers and also journalists” were all out to destroy her.
 
Capitanich, the Cabinet chief, told CNN and other media outlets that Nisman’s allegation is “crazy, absurd, illogical, irrational, ridiculous, unconstitutional.”
 
Opinion: Who killed Nisman?
 
A special poll by the firm Ipsos showed nearly 70% of those surveyed believed Nisman in fact was murdered. The poll backs Bullrich’s observations.
 
“In Argentina, Argentina thinks that the prosecutor Nisman ha[s] been killed … nobody believes the hypothesis about the suicide, nobody,” Bullrich said.
 
Ten days after Nisman’s death, he was buried in a ceremony carried live on Argentinian television. His grave is in the same cemetery where victims of the 1994 explosion are buried.
 
David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffin reported from Buenos Aires. Mariano Castillo reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Ivan Sarmenti contributed to this report from Buenos Aires.
 
Feb 3, 2015
 
Days before an arrest warrant for the president was found in Alberto Nisman’s trash, Iran’s diplomat in Buenos Aires denied any secret channels between his government and de Kirchner.BUENOS AIRES — Confusion reigns two weeks after the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman. The judicial authorities still claim all indications lead to suicide, but it appears no one in Argentina believes this, not even President Cristina Kirchner herself, who flip-flopped between calling the death a suicide and a homicide in the first two days following his demise.
 
On Sunday, Viviana Fein, the prosecutor investigating Nisman’s “unnatural death,” announced that no documents had been found in his residence. On Monday, she was forced to backtrack, humiliatingly, in front of the media, when the Argentine broadsheet Clarín published images not only of documents, but of an arrest warrant Nisman had drafted that called for the detention of President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, both of whom he accused of participating in a massive cover-up regarding Iran’s role in two terror attacks that rocked Buenos Aires in the early 1990s.
 
On Monday, Fein also issued the first report based on forensics. She said Nisman, who was left-handed, was shot 2 centimeters behind his right ear, the bullet angled downwards, with the bathroom door shut. Argentine observers, dripping with contempt, spent the day discussing Nisman’s talent as a contortionist. The autopsy results have yet to be released.
 
In Israel, a source close to military intelligence said Israel has “heavy suspicions” that Iran may be implicated in Nisman’s death. “We are sure there is a local connection, but we have significant concerns about Iran’s involvement,” the source said.
 
Iran has a rich history of perpetuating terror in Argentina. Days before dying, Nisman accused Argentine president Cristina Kirchner of trying to cover up Iran’s crimes by negotiating a secret memorandum to “cooperate on the investigation.” Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman, who was also apparently implicated by Nisman, told NPR he was negotiating with Nisman because “the only way to move forward was to sign an agreement with Iran to allow the judge of Argentina to go to Tehran to interrogate the suspects”—where, under international law, they are fugitives, yet where an Argentine judge has no jurisdiction.
 
At the same time, Israeli sources familiar with Nisman’s investigation have assured The Daily Beast that there is “100 percent, no doubt” about Iran’s responsibility for the two terrorist events in Argentina—the 1992 explosion of the Israeli Embassy that killed 29 people, and the 1994 attack against a major Jewish communitarian organization, AMIA, that killed 85—attacks that Nisman had been investigating for the last 10 years of his life.
 
Irit Kohn, the former Director of International Division at the Israeli Ministry of Justice and currently the president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists told The Daily Beast that while she was attempting to piece together a case against those responsible for the embassy attack, “the Argentinians did everything possible to evade our requests. We already had it clear that the Iranians were involved. We had information about the Iranians—that it was basically one of their operations, and the Argentinians maneuvered not to bring us the materials we were asking for.”
 
Israeli sources interviewed for this article sought to emphasize the seriousness of Nisman’s accusations against Iran, underscoring that Interpol accepted the evidence he presented back in 2006 and issued red notices against six Iranian officials that stand even today.
 
One source said, “Look, Interpol clearly had enough information to justify the red notices. You need to be on very solid ground to deny someone his freedom. You have to feel confident about the information. We know that Imad Mughniyah got instructions directly from Iran. The Argentinians tried to blame the Syrians— and we said: ‘You guys just don’t get it.’ We said it was Hezbollah; they do everything in conjunction with Iran.”
 
Another unrelated Israeli source concurred, saying, “Alberto Nisman was a reliable prosecutor, a hard worker, a serious guy. We had absolutely no doubts about Iran. The intelligence demonstrates with 100 percent certainty that Iran was behind both Buenos Aires attacks, and not only organizationally.”
 
In an unusual attempt at outreach, Ahmad Reza Kheirmand, Iran’s chargé d’affaires in Buenos Aires (whose formal title is commercial attaché) agreed to answer a few questions via email, although he did not respond to comment on the news of the draft warrant for Kirchner’s arrest. His responses been edited for clarity.
 
What is your opinion of the case Nisman presented to the Argentine courts?
 
“First, I want to express my deep condolences to Nisman’s family.”  (Fernandez has never offered condolences to the Nisman faimily.)”One thing I can say is that given that Iran and Argentina have had diplomatic relations for 110 years and both resolve issues through their representatives, there is no secret backchannel. In addition, two foreign ministers with instructions from their presidents negotiated to resolve the problem. In other words, when the official, formal diplomatic channel works well, there is no need for a parallel channel.”
 
Nisman based his accusation on the fact that part of the negotiation included a commercial agreement to trade Argentine “grain for Iranian crude oil. Did either of you at any point contemplate enforcing this agreement?
 
“No. Traditionally Argentina never imported oil from Iran due to the characteristics of our crude, which is not compatible with Argentine refineries. Regarding the commercial exchange, Iranian companies are in contact with international conglomerates for the acquisition of grains, and, unfortunately, the earnings from trade remains in the hands of the companies.”
 
In Nisman’s indictment, Mohsen Rabbani [one of the Iranian officials subject to an Interpol extradition demand on terror charges] has the role of a protagonist in the negotiations. What is his role in the relations between Argentina and Iran?
 
Rabbani is a man of the religious and cultural world who is dedicated to the teaching of religious texts at a university in the city of Qom. He has no ties to the Executive and no authorization to meddle in executive matters.
 
What is your opinion of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Iran and Argentina?
 
The Islamic Republic of Iran has always condemned the AMIA attack and has offered its cooperation. The Memorandum’s aim was to cooperate with the Argentine state so as to arrive at the truth.
 
Is the Memorandum in effect in Iran?
 
In September, 2013, our Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, informed [Argentina’s] Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, that it is in effect according to the law of Iran. It is now paralyzed due to a decision of Argentine courts. [Argentina ratified the agreement; it was later declared unconstitutional by a federal court judge.]
 
 
By Greg Grandin
February 3, 2015
 
In Buenos Aires, on January 18, Alberto Nisman, a government prosecutor, was found dead in his apartment, shot with a 22. The death, either a suicide or a murder, has rocked Argentine politics. One’s opinion on what the killing means depends on one’s opinion of the country’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
 
Nisman, who had spent years investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, which killed 85 and wounded hundreds, had accused Kirchner and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman (son of Jacobo Timerman, one of Argentina’s most famous victims of the dirty war, author of Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number) of conspiring to protect Iran (and Hezbollah) from being held accountable for the bombing. Kirchner and Timerman made this deal, according to Nisman, in exchange for cheap oil. Nisman’s accusations are contained in a nearly 300-page report, released just before his death. He was about to give testimony before Congress, but died the night before his scheduled appearance.
 
Nisman’s death is classic black-bag baroque. It involves spies, Cold War intelligence agencies, Israel, Syria, Iran, oil politics, and, of course, the CIA and Mossad. But before going in to the deals, I want to point out its eerie similarity to another bizarre political death, in Guatemala of Rodrigo Rosenberg in 2009.
 
Rosenberg, just before he was murdered, made a video in which he accused the country’s then left-of-center president, Álvaro Colom, of having killed him because he had evidence of corruption. Where Nisman reportedly predicted his own death (“I might get out of this dead”), Rosenberg, in his video, said “if you are hearing or seeing this message it means that I’ve been murdered by President Álvaro Colom.”
 
Rosenberg then paid assassins to kill him. It was all part of an intricate rightwing conspiracy to destroy Colom’s mildly reformist presidency. I realize that sounds crazy. But that was the irrefutable conclusion of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, the result of an extraordinary investigation described in compelling detail by David Grann in The New Yorker. And just as many of Kirchner’s opponents have seized on Nisman’s death to take to the streets and declare “Yo soy Nisman” (“I am Nisman”), protests broke out in Guatemala after the appearance of the Rosenberg video that nearly toppled Colom. One of Colom’s key constituencies were mobilized peasants, demanding policy solutions to the country’s chronic land crisis; the protesters that denounced Colom as an asesino were largely from the urban middle class. That is, they were the same social composition mobilized against other left or reformist leaders, in Thailand, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. That year, 2009, in Honduras, similar protests brought down Manuel Zelaya.
 
I want to be clear that I am not saying that Nisman arranged his own death—or that he killed himself to discredit Kirchner. Only that it is worth noting the Rosenberg case because it offers a rare instance when the curtain was pulled back, revealing with unusual clarity and hard evidence the wheels within wheels that comprise the secret state of just one small Latin American nation. Guatemalans have normalized the phrase, poderes ocultos, or fuerzas oscuras, using it with the same matter-of-factness that political scientists in the US theorize “civil society.” Guatemalan academics even have a generic acronym for the concept: CIAC, standing for, in English, “Illegal Bodies and Clandestine Security Apparatus” (in the Spanish, “apparatus” is pluralized, which adds to elusive ubiquity conveyed by the term). The historian Mark Healey tells me that the Argentine term of art is simply “service,” a reference to the servicios de inteligencia that is made in English to underscore who their teachers were. Really, it is worth reading the Grann essay to get a sense of how deeply embedded in society the rightwing “aparatos” have become, working their way even into the emotional life of people like Rosenberg.
 
In Argentina, things are even more complex because the Nisman case involves an array of international political actors: Iran, Israel, Syria, and the United States. And hovering over it all is the stink of anti-semitism.
 
Horacio Verbitsky, a journalist and president of the Center for Legal and Social Studies, which represents a number of the victims of the 1994 bombing, wrote recently in The New York Times that he doesn’t “buy” Nisman’s story of collusion between Kirchner and Iran. He notes that Nisman’s report is “self-contradictory” and highly rhetorical, containing few specifics and little hard evidence. He also points out that the former sectary general of Interpol, Ronald Noble, insists that that neither Kirchner nor Timerman tried to quash Interpol’s arrest warrants against accused Iranians. “Nisman’s claims are false,” Noble said the day Nisman’s body was found.
 
Verbitsky also points out that the oil angle makes no sense because Argentine refineries can’t process high-sulfur Iranian oil. Rather, the supposed incriminating memorandum that the Kirchner government signed with Iran was aimed “to allow a judge to interrogate the accused Iranians and to set up an International Truth Commission, composed of prestigious jurists from other countries.”
 
Verbitsky then provided an alternative theory, which points to Syria, not Iran, as the instigator of the 1994 bombing (and of an earlier, 1992, attack on the Israeli embassy). This line of argument is well known in Argentina. And it has two variations: Syria either did it to discredit Argentina’s then president Carlos Menem, in retribution for Menem’s support of Operation Desert Storm against Syria’s ally, Iraq (Menem, of Syrian descent, had previously received financial backing from Hafez al-Assad). Or the bombing was actually committed by Menem and his security forces. In either case, those who hold to a version of this theory believe that Menem began to point the finger at Iran, both to deflect away from his relationship with Syria (whatever that was) and on the behest of Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin didn’t want Syria accused because he feared such an accusation would derail the Oslo peace talks (because Syria backed the talks). “La pista siria,” or “the Syrian lead,” especially the version that holds Menem responsible for the bombing, is discussed in detail by Beatriz Gurevich here.
 
Washington, for its own reasons, encouraged the finger-pointing at Iran and, according to cables released by Wikileaks, urged Nisman to follow this line of inquiry. Nisman, writes Jonathan Blitzer in the New Yorker, “obsessively consulted with the American Embassy. He went to the Embassy with advance tips on his investigation, he shared knowledge about judges’ leanings, and he showed Embassy officials drafts of his arrest orders and made revisions based on their comments. In October, 2006, Nisman formally accused Iranian officials and a Hezbollah operative of orchestrating the 1994 attack. U.S. Embassy representatives told Nisman that they were ‘convinced’ his case was solid, and ‘congratulated’ the Argentine prosecutors for their ‘dedication.’ Some of the same cables refer to U.S. efforts to impose international sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, a campaign that the Argentine government joined at the United Nations.” The best discussion of what the Wikileak cables say about Argentina and the Nisman investigation are by Santiago O`Donnell, in the books Argenleaks and Politileaks.
 
And The Nation, in 2008, published a lengthy investigation by Gareth Porter on the ways in which the US pushed Argentina to look only at Iran (which includes a description of Nisman as exclusively focusing on Tehran, ignoring evidence that suggested otherwise). Porter concluded: “the US insistence on pinning that crime on Iran in order to isolate the Tehran regime, even though it had no evidence to support that accusation, is a perfect definition of cynical creation of an accusation in the service of power interests.”
 
For its part, the CIA today apparently believes that Nisman was executed as part of a power struggle internal to Argentine’s intelligence services. According to Clarín (the flagship tribune of a large, anti-Kirchner corporate media conglomerate), citing an unnamed source with access to those in charge of Argentina for the CIA, “Langley believes that the operation had more to do with an internal struggle in Argentina than with Iran.”
 
One spin on the “internal struggle” thesis holds that the former head of Argentina’s intelligence agency, the Servicio de Inteligencia del Estado (SIDE), Antonio Stiuso first manipulated Nisman to accuse Kirchner and then had him killed to discredit her. Stiuso welded the power of a J. Edgar Hoover (or Alberto Fujimori’s Alberto Montesinos) while being as elusive as Sherlock Holmes’s Moriarty. “He was the most feared man in Argentina. I mean, his face is really not known because there’s only one very blurry picture of him,” Argentine journalist Uki Goñi told NPR; “He is reputed to have held files on all of the most important politicians, journalists, and judges and prosecutors in Argentina.” Stiuso joined the SIDE in 1972, and worked his way up through its ranks during the country’s “dirty war,” when the intelligence agency served as one of the institutional pillars of Plan Condor. Earlier, SIDE’s roots can be traced back to the years after World War Two, when it helped secret German Nazis into Argentina. Goñi published a more in depth account of Stiuso and his conflict with Kirchner here, in The Guardian.
 
Added to the mystery has been the erratic communication strategy of the Kirchner administration, which, if one really wanted to get deep-state paranoid, seems almost intentionally designed to amplify the already surreal and distorting nature of the national (and international) security apparatus. Officials have seemed hapless, at times even malevolent, in the face of what they say is a widespread conspiracy, lashing out at critics and the oppositional (corporate) press.
 
Ernesto Semán, who once worked with Héctor Timerman at ministry of foreign relations and then with the Argentine mission to the United Nation Security Council, says that the problem is that the administration is caught between what the government—including Kirchner’s predecessor, her late husband Néstor Kirchner—did for ten years (basically leaving the security forces unchecked and going along with its unfocused allegations against Iran) and what it has done for the last two: rethinking its relationship to Teheran, trying to jumpstart the investigation into the bombing, and attempting to rein in the SIDE, which included sacking Stiuso.
 
Semán, who now teaches at the University of Richmond, elaborated:
 
Before debating whether it was Iran or Syria behind the bombings, it’s important to remember that, after the attack, years were lost due to the manipulation of the CIA, Mossad, and SIDE, as Verbitsky and others have reported. The bombing might have been Hezbollah, or Syria, but the US and Isreal’s strategic interest in insisting on blaming Iran precluded anyone in Argentina from doing anything to do actually get to the bottom of the case. Every administration from 1994 to this day, including Kirchner’s, all politicians, from across the political spectrum, opted to do nothing. They’d periodically blame Iran, remind the public of the “local connection” (ie, Menem) and demand cooperation from the international community. But that was about it. I’ve heard political leaders, judges, ministers, and intelligence agents all say they operated under the premise that the less done, the better. Anything else, they reason, would open a Pandora’s box. They don’t know what’s inside. But they know damn sure it isn’t good. Nisman’s appointment by Kirchner was part of the same approach. His investigation dragged on for a decade, but he was increasingly willing, for some reason, to give credence to the theory pushed by the CIA, Mossad, and Argentine security forces. Why? Who knows? But Verbitsky is right. If you look at the report—and I have—it is incoherent. It doesn’t seem to have been written by a lawyer.
 
But I will say that the memorandum Kirchner and Timerman signed with Iran, the one that Nisman pointed to as incriminating, is actually, in part, an example of good international diplomacy. It accomplished a number of important things. First, it tried to free the investigation of the bombing from the straight-jacket of US’s and Israel’s foreign policy agenda. It also raised the possibility of pursuing the investigation of the bombing independently of the SIDE, where for years it served as little more than an excuse to gather more and more dirt on the political class, increasing the power of men like Stiuso. Beyond the investigation, in terms of geopolitics, the memorandum with Tehran was meant align Argentina with the broader region’s stance toward Iran, particularly Brazil. Brazil has been the strongest supporter of Iran vis the International Atomic Energy Agency, opposing Washington efforts to dismantle its nuclear program (partly in fear that the same sanctions used against Iran could be the basis for pressure against Brazil’s uranium enrichment program). Brazil’s tilt toward Iran actual predates the last two presidents, Dilma and Lula, and goes back to the time of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003). It did grow stronger under Lula. It is also a well-known secret that Brazil’s intelligence agencies have a proactive relationship with their Iranian counterparts, which gives them a deep knowledge of Hezbollah and its movements in Latin America for several decades. Though no one has mentioned it in all the coverage of the Nisman case, it is absolutely important to realize that Argentina is acutely aware of Brazil’s power and influence and would avoid any action that might jeopardize bilateral relations between the two countries. In other words, Kirchner’s move toward Iran was part of a larger regional strategy led by Brazil.
 
How “very convenient,” Semán points out, that the Washington Post scoop on the joint CIA-Mossad 2008 assassination in Damascus of the Hezbollah leader, Imad Mughniyah, mentions in passing that he was the mastermind of the 1994 Argentine bombing.
 
Black-bag baroque: “service” at the service of power.
 
Update: And then the baroque turns rococo; as the above was being posted, the New York Times report that draft arrest warrants for Kirchner and Timerman were “found in the garbage at Mr. Nisman’s apartment.” It remains to be seen if the warrants contain specific information (unlike Nisman’s nearly 300 page report, which by most accounts is rambling and rhetorical). But so far, “two judges have refused to take the case made by Mr. Nisman.” I had meant to also note that Ernesto Semán, quoted above, used to be a reporter at Clarín. And a few people have pointed out Verbitsky’s theory that Syria’s Assad might have turned on Menem because Menem supported the US against Iraq in the first Gulf War can’t hold, since Syria by that time had broken with Iraq and had supported that war.
 
 
By Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb 3, 2015
 
The investigator into the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman says that a 26-page draft of a warrant for the arrest of the country’s president and foreign minister was found in Nisman’s trash after he was discovered dead of a gunshot wound on Jan. 18. Shortly before his death, Nisman had accused President Christina Kirchner’s government of attempting to cover up Iran’s involvement in a 1994 Buenos Aires terror attack. Kirchner has denied the allegations and suggested Nisman had been manipulated into making the allegation by rogue intelligence agents who then killed him. From the New York Times:
 
Viviana Fein, the prosecutor investigating Mr. Nisman’s death, confirmed on Tuesday morning that Mr. Nisman had prepared the draft of the warrant requesting the president’s arrest. Confusion about the document had emerged when Ms. Fein had initially denied its existence, after the newspaper Clarín published an article on Sunday about the draft.
 
Mrs. Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, tore up the article before reporters on Monday. But then Ms. Fein corrected her earlier statement and confirmed the existence of the draft, which Clarín said was prepared in June 2014, more than six months before Mr. Nisman went public with his accusations against the president.
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Kirchner has not commented since Fein confirmed the existence of the warrant.
 
 
By Huang Yinjiazi
Feb 3, 2015
 
BEIJING, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) — Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has given up several important overseas trips, including that to a G20 meeting in Australia due to an ankle fracture and other health setbacks, will be out of her wheelchair and visit China Tuesday.
 
The three-day trip, following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Argentina last year, bears historical significance as the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership expanded to such new areas as space technology, defense and energy.
 
Argentina, traditional primary agro-product producer and exporter intends to export more high-tech and value added products to China, its second largest trade partner, as it seeks to optimize economic structure.
 
China and Argentina have been playing an ever greater role in each other’s economic development. China helps Argentina in strategic industries including railway, hydraulic engineering and nuclear power, while the Latin American countries, boasting advanced technology in agriculture-related sectors, helps China to improve food safety.
 
As an endeavor to further expand the scope of mutually beneficial cooperation, China and Argentina are expected to sign a series of cooperation documents in the areas of trade and economy, law, hygiene, culture and media during the Argentine president’s visit to China.
 
“Either way, chair or no chair, cast or no cast, China awaits us. And the agenda is more important,” Cristina said on her twitter account. Doctor has suggested the 61-year-old president use wheelchair if the routes are very long.
 
In a larger picture, interactions between China and Latin America is of mounting significance to both sides, testified by a flurry of events and documents since the beginning of this year.
 
The China-CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) forum ministerial meeting held in Beijing on Jan. 8-9, defining key areas and specific measures for the overall cooperation from 2015 to 2019 between the two sides, bore milestone significance to expanding trade and ivestment and set a paradigm for South-South Cooperation.
 
Three weeks later, the 3rd Summit of the CELAC, highlighting cooperation with China, pledged again to facilitate the agreements and initiatives of the forum as soon as possible.
 
According to plans, both sides will strive to achieve a trade volume of 500 billion U.S. dollars and investment of at least 250 billion dollars within a decade.
 
The determination of the wheelchair-bound Cristina to go to China, somehow symbolized the determination of Latin America to develop ties with China, as the region’s economy took a blow from declined exports to traditional export destinations such as the European Union.
 
Under the downward pressure of the world economy, the Latin American region looks to expand trade with China to diversify exports and increase mutual investment.
 
In terms of China’s investment to Latin America, despite the remarkable amount, there is great potential to be tapped. Investment should be more diversified to cover such spheres as manufacturing, service industry and infrastructure construction, and to that end constant efforts from both sides are demanded.
 
 
 
By Dimitra DeFotis
February  3, 2015
 
Argentina prosecutor Alberto Nisman, found dead in mid-January, drafted a warrant for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, The New York Times reports today.
 
Nisman died by a single bullet wound in January. His death has gripped Argentines because he died the night before he was to present searing allegations before Congress. The thesis: that Argentina leaders agreed to exonerate Iran in a 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing that killed 85 people. The reward: Iranian oil. President Kirchner denied allegations.
 
The news comes as oil prices climb to the highest level of the year. The global Brent price shot higher by nearly 6% Tuesday to $57.98 per barrel.
 
Argentina’s oil-and-gas producer YPF (YPF) rose 4% Tuesday and is up 12.6% over 12 months. The Global X MSCI Argentina ETF (ARGT) is up 3.3% today, and has climbed 13.5% over the past 12 months, beating broader measures of emerging market equities. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) is up 1.6% today and up 8.8% over the past year.
 
The lead investigator into Nisman’s death said Tuesday that a 26-page document, found in the garbage at Nisman’s apartment, also sought the arrest of Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister. In an exclusive interview Friday with NPR, Timerman said that he tried to help find those involved in the unsolved bombing, not cover up for those responsible.
 
 
By Charlie Devereux
February 4, 2015
 
(Bloomberg) — Pilar Guevara and her daughter share a 19 square-meter (190 square feet) apartment with exposed brick walls, concrete floors, a bunk bed and a gas stove. They flush the toilet by dumping in a bucket of water.
 
For $50 more a month, they could live in the upscale Recoleta area, just a half-mile away. Or in a space that’s 50 percent bigger in the opulent Retiro neighborhood.
 
Welcome to Buenos Aires’s broken housing market.
 
More than a century of economic crises and a byzantine judicial system meant to protect tenants have put legal rentals out of reach for most and kept almost a quarter of housing units vacant. The result: It costs almost as much for a hovel as for decent space.
 
“It speaks to the dysfunctionality,” said Bret Rosen, managing director of research at Jamestown Latin America, a real-estate investor based in New York. “But it also speaks to greater trends throughout the whole economy and applies to so many levels of distrust you see” in Argentina.
 
All the defects meet in the slum known as Villa 31, which the Guevaras call home.
 
About 26,000 people live in the 0.2 square-mile area, according to official figures. Other estimates put the number at 40,000. The entire place exists in a legal gray zone that gives tenants no leverage over abusive landlords.
 
It’s walking distance to the port and city center and on the highway from the northern suburbs. Yet it’s in limbo, undeveloped as commercial space or decent housing, said Carlos Pisoni, director of the masters program in Habitat and Urban Poverty in Latin America at the University of Buenos Aires.
 
‘Embarrassment’
Villa 31’s inhabitants “took a piece of land and entrenched themselves there by building a city, which for some is an embarrassment to see, but it’s reality,” Pisoni said. “It’s an ideological position: If you’ve got a family that’s lived there for 40 years why should they have to go?”
 
The slum is a monument to do-it-yourself construction: cinder block and brick edifices are camouflaged by tangles of wires and metal bars across every window while iron spiral staircases are often the only way to access the third or fourth floors. It has become a self-sufficient entity where neighbors set up kiosks selling vegetables, drinks and cleaning products, a hair salon and even doctors’ offices.
 
Guevara, 50, pays 2,000 pesos ($234) a month. An apartment the same size as hers in Recoleta, whose Belle Epoque architecture has attracted high-end shops and embassies, is available for the same price plus monthly fees of 450 pesos; a 28 square-meter unit with security guards in Retiro near the Sheraton and Four Seasons hotels is similarly priced.
 
Stuck in Slum
She and her 20-year-old daughter are stuck because landlords typically demand four months rent as a deposit as well as a guarantee from a third party. Such requirements stem from a decade ago when evictions took an average of 440 days, according to data compiled by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based National Bureau of Economic Research. The nonprofit economic-research organization worked with law firms in 109 countries to compare legal processes for nonpayment of rent.
 
While a 2002 law cut the Argentine process to months, the old ways remain, said Jose Rozados, director of real-estate research company Reporte Inmobiliario.
 
“I don’t know anyone who could give me a guarantee,” said Guevara, who hasn’t worked for three years because of arthritis and anemia. She relies on the 2,500 pesos a month her daughter Andrea earns as a nanny. “We have just enough to pay for the room, so we go to soup kitchens to eat.”
 
Downtown Workers
Her neighbors work mainly in downtown hotels and restaurants or as construction workers and maids, said Pisoni. While they don’t own title to their homes, long-term residents have rights that protect them from eviction, making them de facto owners — and increasingly, landlords — he said.
 
Limiting their options further is a construction boom powered by Argentines with means seeking refuge in property from soaring inflation of about 38 percent. Home prices in the city of 3 million have almost tripled to $1,693 per square meter in 2014 from $600 in 2002, according to Reporte Inmobiliario.
 
Yet 24 percent of the city’s dwellings are unoccupied, the 2010 census showed. The 341,000 empty units could easily house the 194,000 people living in shanties, said Raul Fernandez Wagner, a professor in urban planning at the National University of General Sarmiento.
 
The state should encourage owners to make empty properties available for rent, said Fernandez Wagner. In the U.K., for example, officials have given local councils the power to levy taxes of up to 150 percent over standard charges for properties that have been empty or unfurnished for two or more years.
 
Credit Crunch
A lack of credit also is pushing potential buyers into renting, Rozados said. The number of owned properties in Buenos Aires fell 10 percent to 621,480 between 2001 and 2010, according to government data. Rentals rose 39 percent in the same period to 315,383.
 
“We’ve seen a rentification of the middle class due to a lack of mechanisms to leverage home buying,” he said.
 
That’s making things even tougher for Paula Alvarado, a 29-year-old single mother of four who has fallen behind on the 3,000-peso-a-month rent for her two-bedroom apartment in Villa 31. Unable to work full-time as a caregiver for elderly people because she can’t find anyone to look after her children, most months she earns only about half of what she needs.
 
“I’ve been thinking of going onto the street,” Alvarado said. “I don’t think I’ve got any other option because elsewhere they ask for a guarantee.”
 
 
By Nidaa Bakhsh
February 3, 2015
 
(Bloomberg) — The start of a six well drilling campaign in the wild and remote seas near the Falkland Islands show the crash in crude prices hasn’t ended the hunt for new fields.
 
In fact, explorers are benefiting from a drop in the cost of hiring rigs and employing contractors.
“Everything is working in our favor as we take advantage of lower service costs,” said Tim Bushell, chief executive officer of Falkland Oil & Gas Ltd., a London-listed explorer with a market value of about $200 million and stakes in several prospects off the South Atlantic islands.
 
Falkland Oil is among a group of explorers that has hired the Eirik Raude rig to spend several months drilling prospects in the region. Since oil started its decline from more than $100 a barrel last July, the cost of employing deepwater exploration rigs has dropped by about a third. That provides an opportunity to hunt for fields that won’t produce any oil for years to come, when prices may have rebounded.
 
Even as oil companies, large and small, slash billions from investment budgets, some exploration projects survive. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, will drill in Arctic waters near Alaska this year even as it cuts $15 billion from capital spending over three years.
 
In the Falklands, drilling starts next month with the Zebedee well to test the southern end of the Sea Lion discovery north of the islands, followed by the Isobel Deep well, Falkland Oil said yesterday.
The Falklands, a self-governing U.K. territory about 300 miles (482 kilometers) from Argentina, has the potential to hold more than a billion barrels of oil and gas, according to the explorers. Argentina, which claims the islands, has condemned oil exploration in the region.
 
Sea Lion
Finding more oil near the islands will make developing Sea Lion, the area’s first field, more economically attractive. Sea Lion, where London-based Premier Oil Plc is the lead shareholder, holds at least 400 million barrels, enough to supply Australia for a year.
 
“In comparison to more mature basins, there is still the potential to make significant discoveries,” Nathan Piper, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in an email. “Also given major spending on developments will be a few years away, they’d benefit from the ongoing fall in service/equipment costs.”
 
Premier said last month lower prices would give it the chance to renegotiate contracts with suppliers.
“In the light of the low oil price environment, negotiations with a number of key contractors are underway and development expenditure estimates are therefore subject to further review,” it said.
First oil from the Sea Lion project is still expected in 2019 and the project is robust even at $50 oil, said an executive at Rockhopper Exploration Plc, a partner in the project.
 
“We’re very excited about this exploration campaign. We have the potential to double our resources,” Stewart MacDonald, chief financial officer at Rockhopper, said by phone. “We’re in a fantastic position to lock-in at very attractive costs for Sea Lion.”
 
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