February 6, 2015
Argentina: A Dead Lawyer, A Missing Spy, And A President Under Fire

The President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, finds herself in the eye of a gathering political storm this week, as CNN reports that former Argentinian chief spy, Horacio Antonio Stiuso, has vanished ahead of giving testimony in the investigation into the suspicious death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

It all began back in 1994 with a Jewish Centre bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Special prosecutor Alberto Nisman investigated the crime, and his findings compelled him to level accusations at President Kirchner -- including an alleged conspiracy to cover-up alleged Iranian involvement. Nisman was subsequently found dead at his Buenos Aires home on January 18, having suffered a gunshot wound to the head, as the New York Times reports.

Having already filed his report, his death came the day before he was due to appear before Congress to expand upon his accusations against President Kirchner. His death was initially ruled as a suicide since a gun was found at the scene in a position consistent with a self-inflicted wound. However, the absence of gunpowder residue on Nisman's hands raised immediate suspicion.

During a search of the scene, investigators found a written request for the issue of arrest warrants for President Kirchner and her Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman, in a rubbish bin. President Kirchner and members of her administration have since directed investigators to Horacio Antonio Stiuso -- Argentina's former top spy -- and he was summoned to testify on Thursday morning, according to lead prosecutor Viviana Fein. Stiuso was removed from his post in December by President Kirchner, as she accused him of providing Nisman with false information linking her to a cover-up. When directing the attention of investigators to Stiuso, Kirchner took the unprecedented step of lifting Stiuso's gag order, thereby giving the former spy permission to discuss matters with investigators that might otherwise be classified. However, Mr Stiuso has not testified -- because he has disappeared.

Stiuso, who reportedly assisted the late Alberto Nisman in his investigation into the 1994 bombing, disappeared before he could receive his official summons. However, his lawyer, Santiago Blanco Bermudez, dismissed suggestions of Stiuso attempting to avoid giving testimony, insisting to the press -- and reported by The Chicago Tribune -- that his testimony would eventually be heard.

"It's his obligation as a citizen and former public official."

Maria Victoria Murillo, a Latin America politics expert at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, explained to the Chicago Tribune her theory regarding the naming of Stiuso.

"The government is trying to regain control of the narrative and this is part of it. The whole thing is like a spy novel, and he's a spy, so it makes sense for the government to put him at the centre of the story."

The death of Nisman and the disappearance of Stiuso will have little impact on the legal case regarding Nisman's report into the 1994 bombing and the alleged cover-up associated with it. The case will be reviewed later this month, in Argentina, by Judge Daniel Rafecas.

[Image via The Mirror]