Alberto Nisman and the Nation Constrained by History
Argentina has been left reeling this week after a political scandal engulfed the government. Alberto Nisman, a renowned Argentinian lawyer, investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, was found dead last week. He had caused great controversy by arguing that the Argentinian government has continually covered up Iran’s involvement in the attack. Many believe that his death is not only suspicious but is likely to have been a politically motivated murder aiming to destabilise the case he was building against the government, or indeed to destabilise the government itself.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been at the centre of the recent crisis arguing that his murder was an attempt to bring her government down in its final year in office. Soon after the murder she also claimed that Argentina’s powerful intelligence service may have been feeding Mr Nisman false information and fueling his case against the government. In response President Fernandez announced plans to dissolve the intelligence agency and rebuild it.
There are too many questions left unanswered from these events and too many vested interests to determine the truth at this time, but one thing is clear – Argentina is a country constrained by its history.
After years of brutal military dictatorships throughout the 20th century, a generation of Argentinians find it hard to trust the government and its various institutions. The legacy of the country’s Dirty War of the 1970’s and 1980’s have still to be resolved. Families remain unsure of what happened to their children, who were taken away to concentration camps and never seen again. The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have fought for thirty years for answers about what happened to the missing people of Argentina and for retribution by bringing those responsible to justice, but even now many answers are difficult to come by. The lack of resolution to the atrocities of the Dirty War mean that few in the country are able to look to the future when so many questions about the past still have to be answered.
As in their national politics, their foreign politics have been controlled by history. Argentina’s role as a haven for Nazi war criminals in the post-War years has rarely been forgotten in the memories of many world nations and in particular Argentina’s Jewish population who believe that the nation has often favoured economic and political ties over support for this religious minority. With the way President Fernandez has handled the death of Alberto Nisman, many within the Jewish community, believe that the historic ties to nations, such as Iran, has supplanted government support for the minority.
Likewise, the rampant nationalism regarding the Falklands Island issue has also arguably held Argentina back. The memory of the nation’s failure in the 1982 War and the inability by subsequent governments to achieve Argentinian sovereignty over the islands has lingered over the country’s nationalists and tied them to a historic ‘battle’ between the assertion of Argentinian strength and the still global influence of European neo-colonialism. Dealing with this issue has long been a weight around the necks of Argentina’s leaders and has halted much of the progress and collaboration that could have seen Argentina move forward.
The memory of military rule, failed foreign policy and critically, in 2015, the failure to bring those responsible, for the 1994 Jewish centre bombing, to justice yet again demonstrates how Argentina’s past acts as a continual shadow over the nation’s ability to move forward. Unless the country can come to terms with with its controversial history and the wounds can be healed, Argentina will remain a nation left behind struggling to emerge from the past, as others can look to the future.