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Argentina's President Says She Will Disband Intelligence Agency
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Argentina's President Says She Will Disband Intelligence Agency

Latin America

Argentina's President Says She Will Disband Intelligence Agency

Argentina's President Says She Will Disband Intelligence Agency
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It's the latest twist in a drama linked to allegations of government corruption and the mysterious death of a prosecutor. NPR's Melissa Block talks about the latest with NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Tonight, the president of Argentina went on TV and announced plans to dissolve the country's domestic intelligence agency. It's the latest twist in a drama that has involved allegations of government corruption and the mysterious death of a prosecutor. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins me now from Buenos Aires. And tell us more, Lourdes, about what Argentina's president had to say.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Yeah. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner addressed the nation. She said basically that she was dissolving the domestic spying agency. I'm looking at the news programs now, and the tagline is, a slap to the spies. As you can imagine, this is a pretty huge move. Essentially, she says the existing spy agency which employs some 2,000 people - it will be dissolved and a new federal agency will take its place. President Kirchner last week on social media blamed what she said was the murder of that prosecutor you mentioned on disgruntled spies whom she had fired.

Just to refresh your memory a little bit, Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor, was found just over a week ago in his apartment with a bullet to the head and a gun next to him. He was the lead investigator trying to uncover who was behind the worst terrorist attack in Argentina's history. That was in 1994 when 85 people were killed at a Jewish community center. It's been 20 years since that attack happened, and no one has been charged.

Nisman claimed Iran and it's agents, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah were behind it, and he was just about to submit a report to Congress in which he claimed President Kirchner was trying to cover up Iran's complicity. Then he was discovered dead. So there's been a lot of speculation here.

BLOCK: And I gather that the president also named a suspect tonight - someone she says was involved in the prosecutor's death.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, she did. She took to national television and said that the man who had last seen the dead prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, alive and had given him the gun was linked to a large media organization that is a foe of the Kirchners. And he was Nisman's coworker, a computer expert. And this is the second person she has suggested was linked to Nisman's death and, may I say, with absolutely no proof. This is all being judged in the court of public opinion, it seems, and not in the court of law.

BLOCK: There is also an active investigation underway into the prosecutor - Alberto Nisman's death. So far, it has not been ruled a homicide, right?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They haven't ruled it a homicide. The investigation is still ongoing, and it could be ruled a suicide. But no one really believes that. You have to remember this is an election year. The stakes are very high. And for her part, President Kirchner tonight defended herself at length saying Nisman's complaint against her was absolute nonsense. She does not want to have the suspicion put on her that she had anything to do with Nisman's death.

BLOCK: This is such a tangled story, and I imagine there where you are, in Buenos Aires, this has just galvanized the public's attention.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I cannot tell you how absolutely riveted the Argentine people are by this drama. Everywhere you go, everyone speak to has an opinion on Nisman's death. Just where this started - this was Argentina's worst terror attack. It happened 20 years ago and the investigation has gone nowhere. No one has been convicted, but everyone has been implicated. I've been told here that Iran was behind it, the CIA might've been behind it, Syria might've been behind it, the Argentine government did it and so on.

And you have to understand that in the absence of real proof - again, no one has been proven to have been behind this bombing 20 years ago - people form their own opinions. People feel that the institutions here cannot be trusted, and Nisman's death is one more tragic chapter in this saga.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reporting from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lourdes, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

BLOCK: And again, the news - that the president of Argentina has announced plans to dissolve her country's domestic intelligence agency.

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