Argentine official’s murder raises questions about judicial system

Vinesh Kovelamudi

The mystery surrounding the death of one of Argentina’s top officials illustrates the flaws in the Argentine justice system, according to law clinical professor Ariel Dulitzky.

Alberto Nisman, the official, was investigating a 1994 terrorist attack on the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. He died hours before he was scheduled to present evidence accusing current Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of playing a role in covering up the attack.

A majority of the Argentine society has a deep mistrust of the judicial system because of its previous track record, according to Dulitzky, who spoke at the College of Liberal Arts on Wednesday.

“Argentina is very deeply polarized,” Dulitzky said. “We cannot understand everything that’s published about Nisman, and we have to take [differing attitudes] into account.”

Norberto Zylberberg, a native Argentine and senior vice president at LatinWorks, an Austin-based advertising company, said he was frustrated with the judicial system’s inability to be impartial in the past.

“Why do we expect justice [in cases like these] when it is not well-deserved in Argentina?” Zylberberg said. 

The mystery surrounding Nisman’s death — whether it was a suicide or a murder — adds to the public’s mistrust of the government, Dulitzky said. 

Some Argentine citizens are encouraging their government to seek international intervention to solve the case, according to Dulitzky.

“An international presence could be useful in terms of providing some legitimacy to whatever is the result of the investigation,” Dulitzky said.

Kirchner is unlikely to be indicted because analysts cannot find any evidence she planned to cover up the attack, sociology professor Javier Auyero said.

“In the 290 papers that he wrote, there is not even one clue to prosecute the president,” Auyero said.

The outcome of the investigation has the potential to affect the future political landscape of Argentina because Kirchner will be up for re-election in six months, Dulitzky said.

“This issue will define how the Argentine democratic society is able to handle these very difficult matters in the context of a presidential campaign,” Dulitzky said.