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JUDGE RAFECAS DISMISSES CASE AGAINST
Development: On 26 February, as a BUENOS AIRES judge dismissed the obstruction of justice case brought against President CRISTINA FERNÁNDEZ, she announced a small ministerial reshuffle.
Significance: Yesterday was a good day for the ARGENTINE president: the decision by Judge DANIEL RAFECAS (The Judge does not belong to the political fraction that supports the Kirchner administration, thus the decision is even more significant) to dismiss the obstruction of justice case originally brought against FERNÁNDEZ by federal prosecutor ALBERTO NISMAN shortly before his mysterious death in January is of particular significance. And her ministerial reshuffle may inject some greater political energy into an administration now facing its last ten months in office.
ACCUSATION AGAINST THE PRESIDENT WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE EVIDENCE
Judge RAFECAS left no room for doubt. The accusation against the president, plus Foreign Minister HÉCTOR TIMERMAN and six others, that they conspired to cover up IRANIAN involvement in the 1994 bomb attack on the AMIA JEWISH community center in BUENOS AIRES, which killed 85 people, was not supported by the evidence, he ruled. RAFECAS added that some of the available evidence “directly contradicts” the accusation – a reference to testimony by the former head of INTERPOL denying that the ARGENTINE government had sought to get ‘Red Notices’ for the arrest of IRANIAN suspects withdrawn. RAFECAS also dismissed intercepted telephone conversations between government associates and intelligence agents. They proved nothing, he said. His decision goes against the views of NISMAN’S successor, prosecutor GERARDO POLLICITA. POLLICITA can appeal the decision to dismiss the case, but it will be a lengthy process.
GOVERNMENTS CLAIM THAT THE WHOLE AFFAIR HAS BEEN AN ATTEMPTED POLITICAL COUP D'ETAT AGAINST THE PRESIDENT GAINS SOME CREDIBILITY
Politically, the decision is very positive for the president. If the government was not trying to obstruct justice in the AMIA case, it follows that it would also have had little to gain from NISMAN’S death (if his death were to be proven to be other than suicide). So FERNÁNDEZ’S claim that the whole affair has been used for political reasons against her gains some credibility. Accusation of foul play made by the so called opposition parties’ (who in reality are the media group CLARIN) look correspondingly weakened. Perhaps most importantly for FERNÁNDEZ, the judge’s decision gives her valuable breathing space at the start of the 2015 election campaign.
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Hector Magnetto and the Military Junta
The sense of a government regaining the initiative was supported by a mini-reshuffle. Out went Cabinet Chief JORGE CAPITANICH, who resumes his position as governor of CHACO province (from where he intends to run for mayor of RESISTENCIA). He is replaced by ANÍBAL FERNÁNDEZ, one of the government’s heavy hitters (he has previously served as interior minister [2003-2007], justice minister [2007-2009], and as a federal senator [2011-2014]). FERNÁNDEZ, who had been serving as secretary-general to the presidency, was replaced in that role by EDUARDO ‘WADO’ DE PEDRO, a key member of the LA CÁMPORA youth wing of the ruling party, led by the president’s son, MÁXIMO KIRCHNER. His presence indicates that in her last months in office FERNÁNDEZ may increasingly rely on her ‘inner circle’ made up of LA CÁMPORA members.
Looking Ahead: This latest turn of events leaves two or three outstanding issues. First, with the NISMAN case less of an immediate threat, the government could still be under serious pressure as a result of other legal challenges, including corruption charges against Vice-President AMADO BOUDOU and money-laundering charges against President FERNÁNDEZ herself and her immediate family. Second, it remains to be seen how the opposition parties will react to the NISMAN setback, and in the context of the election campaign. And third, to the extent that the government has regained the initiative, what will it use it for? The president is due to open a new session of congress and there is some speculation that she may seek to tighten controls on the judiciary.