Tag Archive | "President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner"

Judge Rafecas Rejects AMIA Cover up Case Against President


President Fernández was accused of an alleged cover up in the AMIA bombing case. (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

President Fernández was accused of an alleged cover up in the AMIA bombing case. (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas today dismissed the criminal case against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner over an alleged plan to cover-up any Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre.

The accusations were made by prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January, just a few days before he was found dead in his Puerto Madero apartment. On 13th February, prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita took on the investigation and requested that President Fernández and other high-ranking members of her administration be formally charged with attempting to divert the criminal investigation into the AMIA attack.

According to Nisman’s accusations, Argentina would shield Iranian suspects in the AMIA case in exchange for increase trade in oil and grains.

Judge Rafecas ruled that the accusations did not meet the “minimum conditions” to warrant further investigation. He stated that two main elements on which the cover up hypothesis was based – the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Iran and Argentina’s supposed efforts to remove Interpol’s ‘red notices’ for the Iranian suspects – were not supported by facts.

Approved in 2013, the MoU with Iran, which included plans to create a Truth Commission to investigate the AMIA bombing, was deemed unconstitutional in 2014 and never implemented. Meanwhile, days after Nisman’s formal accusation, Interpol’s ex-Secretary General Ronald Noble stated that the Argentine government had not requested the removal of ‘red notices’ for six Iranian suspects even after signing the MoU.

According to a statement by the judge: “It is clear that neither of the two alleged crimes cited by Prosecutor Pollicita in his petition hold up. The first (the creation of a Truth Commission), because the supposed crime never occurred, and the second (the removal Interpol’s “Red Notices”) because the evidence gathered emphatically rejects the prosecutor’s version of evens, and also leads to a conclusion that no crime was committed.”

Prosecutor Pollicita is now able to appeal the decision by Rafecas.

Story in development…

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Prosecutor Seeks Charges for President over AMIA Cover Up


President Fernández faces formal charges for alleged AMIA cover up. (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

President Fernández faces formal charges for alleged AMIA cover up. (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

A federal prosecutor has today requested that a judge formally charge President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other high-ranking members of her administration with attempting to divert the criminal investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.

Gerardo Pollicita’s petition to the court is based on the accusations presented by special prosecutor Alberto Nisman just four days before he was found dead in his apartment last month.

In the document, President Fernández is accused of masterminding a plan to cover up the role of Iranian officials suspected of being involved in the AMIA attack, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Also accused are Foreign Affairs Minister Héctor Timerman, Frente para la Victoria legislator Andrés Larroque, and social leaders close to the government.

Pollicita requested that an investigation be carried out “with the aim of proving, based on evidence to be collected, the existence of the fact and, consequently, (determine) if those responsible are to be criminally punished.”

However, Pollicita did not request that the president and other accused members of the government be summoned for questioning, as Nisman had done in his complaint.

The judge in charge of the case, Daniel Rafecas, must now decide whether to accept Pollicita’s request to go ahead with the investigation.

Judge Rafecas will cut short his holiday and return to Buenos Aires this weekend to take on the case.

‘No Evidence’

Earlier today, the legal body representing the Executive presented the same court with a 67-document including what it claimed was important material evidence relating to the accusation filed by Nisman on 14th January.

The report concludes that: “There is no evidence, not even circumstantial, that proves the existence of conduct attributable to the President or officials of the federal government that constitutes the crimes presented in the [Nisman] accusation, or any others included in the Criminal Code.”

This morning, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich described the accusations against the president as a an attempt at a “judicial coup”.

A ‘silent march’, led by prosecutors demanding protection and justice, will be held on 18th February, one month after Nisman’s death.

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President Announces Bill to Overhaul State Intelligence Services


President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces reform of intelligence services (Photo via CFKargentina)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces reform of intelligence services (Photo via CFKargentina)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced yesterday that she was sending a bill to Congress to reform the country’s intelligence services.

Speaking to the nation in a TV broadcast, the president said the existing Intelligence Secretariat (SI) would be dissolved and replaced by a new Federal Intelligence Agency with “completely different governing principles”.

“This is a debt in our democracy that all governments have carried since 1983,” said President Fernández, who appeared in a wheelchair due to a broken ankle suffered last month.

The new Federal Intelligence Agency will be led a director and assistant director that are appointed by the Executive but require approval from the Senate to start performing their duties. Both positions will have a mandate of four years.

Meanwhile, control of the current System of Judicial Observations, which is responsible for tapping phones, will be transferred to the Public Prosecutor Ministry. The president said this was because the ministry operates uniquely outside of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government.

Other reforms in the proposed bill include: a ban on interactions between public officials and intelligence agents, unless conducted via the director or assistant director of the agency; the creation of data protection banks to ensure that private information is gathered and stored only when necessary; prison sentences of up to ten years for those who illegally intercept communications; and criminal charges for any public official or employee who makes contact with intelligence agents outside of institutional channels.

The proposal comes a week after the sudden death of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman, which the government, including President Fernández, has linked to recent personnel changes made in the SI. The president also claimed yesterday that the Intelligence Secretariat was behind a “bombardment” of accusations against the Executive since the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Iran as part of the investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.

“I will not bow to extortion, or intimation,” said Fernández. “I’m not afraid – they can say what they want, or make the accusations they want. I’m not interested whether judges call me to court, or prosecutors make accusations about me, I’m not going to change my mind one bit.”

The initiative was applauded by ruling party legislators, but some opposition candidates criticised the president’s message.

“The State Intelligence cannot be corrected with a law, but with a change of government,” said presidential hopeful Ernesto Sanz, of the Radical (UCR) Party.

“There is no substantial change,” declared PRO Senator Gabriela Michetti. “Phone tapping by the judiciary will now have to go through [Public Prosecutor] Alejandra Gils Carbó, and we all know by now who Gils Carbó responds to and about the problems of keeping the Public Prosecutor’s Office independent of the Executive.”

Meanwhile, former Supreme Court judge Raúl Zaffaroni said the initiative “takes the bull by the horns”. He added: “judging by the development of the current Intelligence Secretariat, any change will be positive.”

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Nisman: Investigation Continues into AMIA Prosecutor’s Death


Prosecutor Viviana Fein is leading the investigations into Alberto Nisman's death (Photo: Claudio Fanchi/Télam)

Prosecutor Viviana Fein is leading the investigations into Alberto Nisman’s death (Photo: Claudio Fanchi/Télam)

Investigations are continuing into the sudden death of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a day after protests broke out across Argentina.

Nisman’s body was found locked inside his apartment in Puerto Madero on Sunday night. An initial autopsy yesterday indicated that he had died from a single gunshot to the head. The bullet came from the .22 calibre gun found near the body, and there were no indications of third party involvement.

In developments today, the prosecutor investigating Nisman’s death, Viviana Fein, told local media that no traces of gunpowder had been found on Nisman’s hands. Fein added that this was common with a gun of that calibre and that “this does not prove that he did not fire the gun,” as the autopsy suggests.

Fein said she will be taking the testimony of the two police officers that were on duty on Sunday as part of a team of ten assigned to protect the prosecutor. Fein will also speak to Nisman’s relatives and ex-wife, who arrived in the country earlier today.

Also today, officers conducted a search of Nisman’s office in order to take any computers or other items that could support the investigation.

Reactions and Protests

Many people reacted angrily to the news of Nisman’s death, with protests staged across several Argentine towns and cities last night.

“We’re protesting because the Kirchnerist government has set a new record for corruption and hostility,” Pablo Pampin, a health insurance employee who took part in the protest in Plaza de Mayo, told The Argentina Independent. “On Wednesday a prosecutor accuses the president of a cover up in the AMIA case and on Sunday he is found dead. He allegedly committed suicide, but the question is why he did? What did they threaten him with?”

Meanwhile, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner released a statement lamenting the death of Nisman, saying that his suspected suicide prompted “first stupor and then questions”.

“What was it that leads a person to make the terrible decision to take their own life?” President Fernández wrote in a message published on her official Facebook page. “In the case of the suicide(?) of the prosecutor in charge of the AMIA case, Alberto Nisman, there is not only stupor and questions but a story too long, too hard, and above all very sordid: the tragedy of the worst terrorist attack carried out in Argentina.”

In her message, President Fernández recalled the alleged cover up in the original investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing, the trial for which includes as suspects ex-president Carlos Menem and former judge Juan José Galeano, and which is expected to begin later this year.

“Today, more that ever, we cannot allow them to do the same with the trial over the cover up as they did with the original case. We will discover who carried out the [AMIA] attack when we know who covered for them.”

The president concluded her statement with several unanswered questions about Nisman’s behaviour in the days before his death that she said must be investigated by the judiciary.

Secretary General for the Presidency, Aníbal Fernández, also spoke about question marks over Nisman’s accusations against the president last week, after the prosecutor had returned early from holidays to present the lawsuit.

“Why was he so desperate to return [to Argentina] in those terms? It doesn’t make sense,” he told reporters this morning. “He was made to come back and present the suit,” Fernández said, adding that the incident was linked to “top-level structures like the Intelligence Secretariat.”

‘Truth and Justice’

In other developments, members of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires have called for a march to the AMIA centre on Wednesday to demand “truth and justice”.

Reacting to yesterday’s shock revelation, the AMIA and the Delegation of Israeli Associations in Argentina (DAIA) released a joint press statement calling Nisman’s death “a blow for the AMIA case”.

“[We will] redouble their commitment to clarify what happened in the attack and bring those responsible to justice. The AMIA and DAIA demand that the special prosecution unit continues to work so that the physical disappearance of Nisman does not signify the death of a case that left 85 fatalities and hundreds injured.”

Lead image by Claudio Fanchi, via Télam.

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President Fernández Accused of Cover Up in AMIA Bombing Case


The aftermath of the AMIA bombing in 1994 (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

The aftermath of the AMIA bombing in 1994 (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

A prosecutor investigating the 1994 AMIA bombing yesterday accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other high-ranking officials of an alleged cover up to protect Iranian officials suspected of being involved in the attack in exchange for economic benefits.

Alberto Nisman, who has been investigating the case since 2004, called for President Fernández and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman to be questioned over the alleged “criminal plan” to distance Iran from any involvement in the attack. He also asked the court to place an embargo for $200m in assets.

The accusations are also directed at Frente para la Victoria (FpV) legislator Andrés Larroque, pro-government social activist Luis D’Elía, and Fernando Esteche, the leader of the leftist political movement Quebracho.

In 2013, the Argentine government signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) with the Iranian government, which denies any involvement, to jointly investigate the bombing. The MoU did not advance as it was not ratified by the Iranian Parliament and then declared unconstitutional by an Argentine Federal Court, but Nisman says the accord was designed as part of a plan to open up commercial ties between the two countries.

The prosecutor claims Argentina’s desire to import oil from, and sell grains to, Iran was the motivation for the MoU and cover up. He says Timerman’s failure to convince Interpol to drop the ‘Red Notice’ warrants it had issued in 2007 for six Iranian suspects was behind the collapse of the alleged deal.

Nisman claims that the decision to create the cover up came directly from President Fernández, with the others accused of executing the plan. “There is a huge amount of information,” said Nisman yesterday. “What surprises me is the impunity with which they [the accused] talked, the impunity to say ‘nothing will happen to me’.”

The prosecutor said that the new accusations were based on evidence from phone conversations between Argentine and Iranian officials since 2011.

Questions

Nisman’s presentation was quickly criticised by the government, with Secretary General for the Presidency, Aníbal Fernández, calling the accusations “ridiculous”. Other criticisms centred on Nisman’s close ties with the US Embassy, as evidenced by numerous diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, and with some members of the Argentine national intelligence service, SI (ex-SIDE).

In addition, the judge in charge of the case, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, called into question the reliability of the new accusations. He said that he had not been consulted by Nisman about the new line of investigation, adding that he had only found out about it in the media.

Canicoba Corral said that the telephone conversations referred to by Nisman were not authorised by him and questioned whether they would be legally admissible as evidence. “I’m going to study whether the prosecutor is performing his duties or if he has deviated from them,” the judge said in a TV interview with CN23.

Canicoba Corral also criticised Nisman for presenting the 300-page writ yesterday to Federal Judge Ariel Lijo, who is also investigating Vice-President Amado Boudou for alleged corruption, rather than consulting with him as the judge leading the AMIA case.

The AMIA bombing was the worst terrorist attack in Argentine history, killing 85 people and injuring a further 300. So far no-one has been convicted for the attack.

 

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Government Announces Cabinet Shuffle


Aníbal Fernández will return to the executive as secretary-general for the presidency. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Aníbal Fernández will return to the executive as secretary-general for the presidency. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Public Communications Secretary Alfredo Scoccimarro, has announced changes in the cabinet following the resignation of Intelligence Chief Héctor Icazuriaga earlier today.

Scoccimarro said that position as head of the intelligence office will be taken up by Oscar Parrilli, while Senator Aníbal Fernández will occupy Parrilli’s current role as secretary general for the presidency.

Before becoming a senator in 2011, Fernández served as justice minister and cabinet chief during President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s first term. He was also interior minister in the Néstor Kirchner administration.

Opposition parties called the changes a “desperate” response to legal complications affecting high-ranking members of the government, including Vice President Amado Boudou.

Parilli is due to be sworn in by the president this evening, with Fernández to follow on Thursday.

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Congress Approves New Criminal Procedure Code


Legislators approve a new Criminal Procedure Code (Photo: Fernando Sturla/Télam)

Legislators approve a new Criminal Procedure Code (Photo: Fernando Sturla/Télam)

Legislators in the lower house of Congress approved changes to the Criminal Procedure Code after a lengthy debate last night.

The Chamber of Deputies sanctioned the reforms with 130 votes in favour, compared to 99 votes against and two abstentions. It had already been approved by the Senate.

The new code establishes an accusatory system, where prosecutors lead criminal investigations and judges rule on them, to replace the existing inquisitorial system, where judges do both. Other reforms include the introduction of time limits on the completion of criminal investigations and trials, and sanctions for prosecutors and judges who fail to meet the new deadlines. The new code also expands the conditions whereby suspects may be held in custody while awaiting trial.

The law approved last night included more than 40 modifications of the original bill presented by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on 21st October, including a controversial proposal to permit the deportation of foreigners caught committing a crime.

Whilst the original bill sent by the Executive proposed the possibility to deport foreigners who are caught committing a crime and do not have the proper migratory documents for up to 15 years, the version approved into law does not take into account the migratory situation of the accused. However, those who are in Argentina legally can request to serve their sentence in the country. This clause applies to crimes which carry a penalty of over three years in prison, and as long as the right to family reunification is not affected.

Despite these changes and a broad consensus over the need to update the Criminal Procedure Code, opposition parties voted against the government-backed bill, arguing that it could give the executive branch increased power over the judiciary.

During the long debate, members of the ruling Frente Para la Victoria (FpV) party praised the reforms as a means of creating a more transparent, efficient, and democratic judicial process. Opposition legislators, however, expressed concerns over extended powers given the the federal public prosecutor, Alejandra Gils Carbó, and the planned expansion of personnel at the Public Ministry.

“We agree that an accusatory system is more effective, but the only thing that will be implemented with this new code is an increase of more than 1,700 positions in the Public Ministry,” said Manuel Garrido, of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR). “We are handing important powers to a ministry that has no public oversight, because a bicameral commission to perform that function was never incorporated.”

Pablo Tonelli, of the opposition PRO party, added that: “we need complementary measures for this code to come into effect successfully: a law of implementation, a new criminal code, a law for the Public Ministry, the juvenile criminal regime, and another for the execution of sentences.”

The law will now need to be signed by President Fernández, though it is not yet known when it will come into force.

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President Fernández Defends New Civil and Commercial Code


President Fernández holds up a copy of the new Civil and Commerical Code, which will come into force in Argentina in 2016. (Photo: Raúl Ferrari/Télam)

President Fernández holds up a copy of the new Civil and Commerical Code, which will come into force in Argentina in 2016. (Photo: Raúl Ferrari/Télam)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last night promulgated the country’s new Civil and Commercial Code, while also stating that reforms to the Criminal Procedure Law would be sent to Congress “within days”.

The updated Civil and Commercial Code was approved by Congress last week, more than two years after the reform bill was initially presented.

“Though the Constitution is obviously the most important legal instrument of a nation, this is the most important instrument that deals with people’s daily lives, their personal and commercial rights,” said President Fernández in a national address yesterday.

The president said the new law, which combined the Civil and Commercial Codes for the first time in the country’s history, was an “authentic cultural product of Argentina”, replacing the previous version based on European law. “It does not belong to any political party or government, it is the Civil and Commercial Code of democracy,” she said.

President Fernández also addressed the subject of debts and legal tender, an issue that has caused controversy with some claiming the wording of the new code could allow dollar-denominated debts and deposits to be converted into pesos.

“All of these affirmations and headlines to frighten people about how their deposits would lose their value or be paid back in pesos, or that no one could sign a contract… please, this is absolutely out of place,” she remarked.

Article 765 is at the centre of the debate, as it states that a debtor can fulfill his/her payment obligations with the equivalent value of legal currency (the peso).

However, President Fernández said that this would not override several other articles in the code that guarantee the validity of a contract and ensure that banks must respect the currency agreed upon with clients when accepting deposits or issuing loans.

Aside from the issue of currency, the president also highlighted changes to family law within the code, including changes to rules governing divorce, adoption, same-sex marriages, civil unions, and assisted fertilisation.

The new code will come into force on 1st January 2016.

Criminal Procedure Law

The second part of the president’s 50-minute speech was dedicated to the forthcoming reform of the country’s Criminal Procedure Law.

“In the next few days we are going to send Congress a new Penal Code bill, which will transform the existing system from an inquisitorial system to a more agile accusatory system,” declared Fernández.

This means that prosecutors will investigate a case, defense lawyers will act on behalf of the accused, and judges will reach a verdict. In the current system judges fulfill the duel role of investigating and ruling on cases.

President Fernández yesterday claimed that reform was necessary to update the “dysfunctional” existing law. “As I’ve said many times it’s not about being tough or soft on crime, it’s about having the adequate instruments and resources.”

Today, Justice Minister Julián Alvarez added that the main focus of the new law would be to reduce delays in the country’s judicial system. “The timings are going to change. Today it takes an average of four years to bring a case to trial, when it needs to be six months or a year at most, as it is today in Chile.”

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President Creates New Housing Secretariat to Urbanise 100 Villas


New Secretary for Housing Access Rubén_Pascolini (Photo via Presidencia)

New Secretary for Housing Access Rubén_Pascolini (Photo via Presidencia)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced yesterday the creation of a National Secretariat for Housing Access to support the urbanisation of informal shantytowns, or villas, around the country.

According to President Fernández, the new entity will not be involved in housing construction but will aim to ensure that “informal settlements are legally incorporated into the urban fold by providing access to property deeds.”

She added that the first task for the new secretary, Rubén Pascolini, would be the urbanisation of 100 shantytowns built on state lands, covering a total of around 400 blocks. Around 40 of the targeted settlements are in the province of Buenos Aires.

“The National Constitution and our deepest convictions tell us that every Argentine has the right to a piece of land on which they can build their home and their family can live with dignity,” added Fernández during a national tv address.

“We are going to work on inclusion and urban integration,” Pascolini told local press. “This will generate external benefits because when one neighbourhood improves, the whole context improves, and create social interaction.”

While there is no official national data on the number of villas in Argentina, a survey of seven key territories, including the country’s most important urban areas, by the NGO Techo in 2013 documented at least 1,834 settlements housing 532,800 families.

In the city of Buenos Aires, the number of people living in villas has risen dramatically over the last 20 years. Latest official estimates put the number at 275,000, up from 163,587 in 2010 and representing around 10% of the city population.

Earlier this year, the Corriente Villera Independiente, which groups representatives from all of the villas in the capital, staged a 53-day protest camp at the base of the obelisco to demand the urbanisation of the city’s villas by the municipal government. Almost two thirds of these were in the province of Buenos Aires.

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Government Celebrates UN Vote on Sovereign Debt


President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces debt  swap plan in August (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces debt swap plan in August (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

The government has lauded a new UN resolution to create a new framework for restructuring sovereign debt, which it says vindicates its own legal battle against so-called vulture funds.

The resolution was approved last night with support from 124 countries, while 11 voted against the proposal and 41 states abstained.

“Today is a special day for all Argentines. We should feel proud,” said President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last night.

The resolution, which states that an international convention to deal with sovereign debt should be created before the General Assembly summit in 2015, had the backing of the G77 + China group.

“As the president of the G77 + China group said today ‘Argentina made us open our eyes’. That’s why we Argentines should feel proud,” said President Fernández.

The Argentine government said the overwhelming support received for the resolution vindicated its refusal to pay the vulture funds that have taken the country through a drawn-out court battle, ending with Argentina falling into a ‘technical default on 31st July‘.

“Those countries that voted no will one day understand that we need a more equal and fair world, with more doves and fewer vultures in all fields, not just the economy, but the military too,” added President Fernández.

The boost from the UN resolution comes before today’s vote in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies on a new law to allow the country to pay holders of its restructured debt via domestic channels, thereby circumventing a US court ruling preventing credit payments through New York.

The proposal, which was approved last week in the Senate, will also include an offer for bondholders to swap their titles for ones of identical value issued under Argentine law.

It also declares the 2005 and 2010 debt restructuring to be an issue of public interest, and created a commission to investigate the history of the debt from 1976 until today.

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24th March marks the anniversary of the 1976 coup that brought Argentina's last dictatorship to power, a bloody seven year period in which thousands of citizens were disappeared and killed. Many of the victims passed through ESMA, a clandestine detention centre turned human rights museum

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