Kirchner’s Official Narrative Didn’t Count on Nisman’s Ex-Wife

Nisman's ex-wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, has altered the course of the official investigation into her husband's death.
Sandra Arroyo has altered the course of the official investigation into her husband’s mysterious death. (El Liberal)

EspañolWith every passing day, the investigation into the death of Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman speaks to greater levels of impunity. The authorities still haven’t been able to work out what happened that night. Did he commit suicide, was he induced into doing so, or was he murdered? Not even the exact date of his death is certain.

Faced with such inefficiency (deliberate or not), a new figure emerges to oppose Viviana Fein, the beleaguered state prosecutor in charge of the investigation: Nisman’s ex-wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado. A federal judge, Arroyo knows the ins and outs of the Argentinean justice system and fully understands the powers at play.

Arroyo took over the legal representation of her daughters in the case investigating her ex-husband’s death. We’re dealing with Argentina’s highest profile death in the last 20 years, so there may be political motivations behind her sudden involvement, but at least someone is rising up against prosecutor Fein.

Arroyo entered the scene March 5, when she presented an alternative autopsy report by three forensic experts that concluded “Alberto Nisman was killed.” Nisman’s ex-wife has since dictated the pace of the official investigation from then on.

Confrontation from the Onset

The first differences between Fein and Arroyo happened right after Nisman’s death. Arroyo claims she asked three separate individuals at the Prosecutor’s Office over the phone on February 20 to withhold performing the autopsy until the family designated a team of reliable forensic experts. She even filed a written request, but Fein claims no one passed on Arroyo’s messages to her, and that the official request came after the procedure had already finished.

This clash marked the beginning of a tense relation between the two public servants, and it was bound to escalate. The alternative autopsy report sparked a verbal war through the media, not unlike Argentinean celebrities who stage fake fights to promote a show. Fein and Arroyo issued accusations, rebuttals, and openly criticized each other.

The Role of Technology

But unlike our afternoon TV shows in which glamorous women fight trivial arguments, Fein and Nisman’s ex-wife have clashed over crucial points that will determine the course of investigations.

Arroyo’s last moves hint that her strategy is to target Diego Lagomarsino, the technician who days before the tragedy gave Nisman the smoking gun. The unofficial autopsy claims Nisman died on the night of Saturday, January 17, while Fein’s report registers the time of death at Sunday noon.

It’s not a minor point. Arroyo’s version of the events puts Lagomarsino at the scene of crime, and so do his actions. On Monday, March 9, judge Fabiana Palmaghini accepted Arroyo’s request to raid Lagomarsino’s home, and the police seized his computer’s hard drives, pen drives, and even his gaming console.

Discussions over technology have become the focus of recent moves. The examination of Nisman’s computers and cell phones have been delayed for over a month, and Arroyo added further delays by raising privacy concerns. It is rumored that these devices hold information that could reveal clandestine alliances between Nisman and Arroyo and Argentina’s controversial spy agency.

But it is also technology that discards, at least partially, the thesis put forward by the family that Nisman died on Saturday evening. The prosecutor’s ex-wife decided to block the examination when it became known that Nisman’s computer was active the following morning, on Sunday. “There was a local connection at that computer on Sunday between 7 and 8 a.m.,” explained Diego Lagomarsino’s lawyer, Maximiliano Rusconi.

New Evidence, Fresh Controversy

One of the 13 conclusions from the unofficial autopsy report was only revealed last Thursday, March 12. It showed Nisman must have been kneeling at the time of his death, which allegedly rules out suicide and reinforces a murder hypothesis.

This elicited a new round of speculation and accusations between Arroyo Salgado and Fein.

The family’s forensic team, based on photographs and videos of the official autopsy, also found marks of “a hand gripping and sliding over one of [Nisman’s] arms.” That is, the prosecutor’s dead body was supposedly moved. This is another element that contradicts the official version that found no traces of intervention by a third person.

The outcome of this showdown was predictable, and on Monday, March 13 Arroyo requested that prosecutor Fein be removed from the investigation and that judge Palmaghini take over. Palmaghini denied the request. Either way, there’s no assurance that replacing Fein would bring us any closer to the truth.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

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