In an hour's long speech Monday evening in national television Argentina’s president Cristina Fernandez announced a plan to dissolve the country’s top intelligence agency and replace it with a new body that will battle international threats from terrorism, drug and human trafficking, and cyber crimes.
In her first public appearance since the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman over a week ago and which has rocked Argentina, the president considered absurd all the accusations against her government related to that death and indicated it was all a plot to discredit her personally and her administration, and yet another impediment to advance in finding the culprits of the 1994 attack on a Jewish institution in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and over 300 injured.
Cristina Fernandez pledged that by the end of the week, before leaving for China, she will propose a bill to Argentine lawmakers calling on the dissolution of the State Intelligence Secretariat (SI, SIDE), to be replaced by a Federal Intelligence Agency which “will work in preventing international threats from the terrorism , drug trafficking, human trafficking and cybercrime.”
Fernandez said Monday night that reforming the intelligence service has long been a “national debt,” while the battle against “impunity” has become a priority of her government and that or her former husband president Nestor Kirchner.
We must start to work on a project to reform the Argentine intelligence system, in order to clear up a system that has not served national interests, said the president.
She then asserted that from the moment the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran over the AMIA bombings in 1994 was signed, you could see that the agreement was being bombarded from the SIDE.
From there even the most unlikely accusations against this President were intensified. They started to occur at a dizzying pace, she added, stating that the maneuver included groups of prosecutors, groups of judges, anonymous accusers and journalists who spread them.
This led me to the decision to remove agents that had been there since before the coming of democracy.
The President also announced that the reform bill would also transfer responsibility for wiretaps and other communications monitoring away from the intelligence agency, to the Attorney-General's Office.
From now on, any judge or prosecutor who wishes to request a wiretap must go to the Attorney General, she underlined.
The announcement of the intelligence network restructuring comes after the mysterious death of Nisman in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 18 in what prosecutors initially said appeared to be a suicide.
The timing of the death, however, has raised questions among the public as Nisman was set to reveal evidence in the case of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center and which allegedly implicated the president and leading officials in a cover-up.
The evidence, much of which is believed to have originated from secret wire taps, implicated Cristina Fernandez and her top aides in secret “grain for oil” trade deals with Iranians, who have been blamed for the attack.
The prosecutor collected a 300-page file, which he based on wiretaps. According to Nisman’s files, the president and foreign minister tried not to incriminate the Iranian officials in order to promote good trade relations between the two countries.
Defending her image in the wake of the scandal, Kirchner called Nisman’s reported allegations “absurd.”
“It's unreasonable to think our government could even be suspected of such a maneuver,” she said during the hour-long speech.
The Argentine president has limited official activity since suffering a fractured ankle over the holiday season, although she did comment on the prosecutor's passing via two letters released on social media websites.
Cristina Fernandez also insisted that Nisman's accusation text, once the accusation was released, on January 20, nobody could believe that a lawyer, let alone a prosecutor, had written it.