Argentina president calls for reform of intelligence agency

BUENOS AIRES - President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said Monday she will seek congressional approval to reform the national intelligence service, following the death of a prosecutor who accused her of a criminal cover-up.

The president plans to submit the reform bill to Congress this week before an official trip to China.

The project calls for dissolving the existing Intelligence Secretariat and creating a new one, the Federal Agency of Intelligence.

The restructuring “is a debt” to society since the return of democracy in 1983, given that the current agency “evidently has not served the national interest,” she said during a one-hour televised speech on public television while seated in a wheelchair due to a fractured ankle.

The proposal for the reform comes a week after prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his apartment just days after he accused the president of orchestrating a cover-up of Iran’s alleged involvement in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

The ploy was designed to exchange oil for grains with Iran in exchange for hiding the involvement of former Iranian officials in the bombing, according to Nisman.

The president repeated her claims from last week that the accusation “is absurd” and based on false evidence, adding that it was unlikely that the 300-page report alleging the cover-up was written by Nisman.

Instead, she believes it may have been written by rouge intelligence agents in a conspiracy to harm her administration.

“There is not a single lawyer, not a single doctrinarian, not a single judge that can believe that the complaint was written by a lawyer, let alone by a prosecutor,” she said.

The president has hinted that the rouge spy could be Antonio “Jaime” Stiusso, who was ousted after a shakeup of the intelligence agency in December. She replaced the head of the agency with Oscar Parrilli, a close confidant who has since released a number of spies, including Stiusso who was working with Nisman on the bombing case and has been in the agency since 1972. 

In reference to Nisman’s death, Fernandez de Kirchner said that while initially she thought he could have committed suicide, based on new evidence she now believes he was likely killed.

She also spoke about Diego Lagomarsino, an information technology expert who worked for Nisman and was charged Monday for lending the prosecutor a pistol that likely was the source of his death.

She said Lagomarsino is linked to Clarin, the country’s biggest media conglomerate. Lagomarsino’s brother, she said, is “an important executive of companies linked to Grupo Clarin” and also a fervent opponent of her political party. She added that Lagomarsino filed for a passport Jan. 14, the same day that Nisman made his accusation against her for the alleged cover-up.

Lagomarsino’s passport has been held back due to the charges against him, she said, which could land him in prison for up to six years.

This information should have been exposed by the media, but hasn’t been because of a plot to damage her, she said.

The ruling party faces a presidential election in October, with most polls indicating it will lose to more conservative parties.

Fernandez de Kirchner took time in her speech to say that her administration has been a target of media-driven attacks but that she won’t sway from her ambitions to help the poor and to seek justice for the 1994 bombing victims.

“I will not be blackmailed, I am not afraid,” she said. “I will not be driven not even a centimeter from what we are doing,” she added.

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