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Tens Of Thousands Mark Argentine Prosecutor's Mysterious Death


A mysterious death that has gripped all of Argentina for weeks now brought tens of thousands of demonstrators out into the streets of the capitol last night. They were demanding answers about what really happened to a prosecutor there. Alberto Nisman had been investigating a bombing of a Jewish community center more than two decades ago. But before he could testify and implicate Argentina's president in a cover-up that involved Iran, he was found dead with a bullet to the head. It's still not known whether he committed suicide or was, as many in Argentina believe, murdered. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was at the march in his honor in Buenos Aires.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: This has been billed as a silent march, and yet many of the placards that people are holding up speak volumes. They ask for justice. They ask for truth. They say, I, too, am Nisman.

EDUARDO CHICHA: I ask for justice like everybody here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Eduardo Chicha, who says he's come to the March for a kind of catharsis. He says he was deeply saddened by the prosecutor's death. Guillermo Gomez carries a picture of Nisman tacked onto a cross with a gun at the center.

GUILLERMO GOMEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "I want to the truth," he says. "They've been lying to us. This isn't just any case. This is the death of someone who was trying to reveal something big. We have many doubts," he says. Arthur Grieben agrees.

ARTHUR GRIEBEN: A lot of things are not clear from his murder. We don't know nothing. It's unbelievable.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that is the common theme here - disbelief. It's been a month since Alberto Nisman was discovered dead with a bullet to the head. And still, it's unclear what happened to him. The lack of answers has meant that everyone has relied instead on their political convictions. People who are against the government say Nisman was silenced by cronies of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. If you're with the government, you echo Kirchner's allegations that Nisman was killed by rogue intelligence agents intent on discrediting her. Still, both sides feel that things have gotten out of control.

ADRIAN BONO: We are at a certain point in which a large percentage of the population wants that polarization to subside.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Adrian Bono is a journalist in Buenos Aires who founded the English-language website The Bubble. The problem is, though, that each side blames the other for that polarization. Senior officials in the government accused yesterday's marchers of trying to stage a soft coup. The opposition says it's the government who's behind the tensions. Both sides say the other has co-opted the institutions of government, which means that no one trusts those very institutions involved in investigating Nisman's death. Adrian Bono says the government and the opposition are now calling for the investigation to be restarted with different people in control of the process.

BONO: I would say that it's pretty unlikely that we're going to find out at least anytime soon who was behind Nisman's death if he was indeed murdered.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Back at the march, a torrential summer storm caused people to huddle under umbrellas and cover themselves in shower curtains and garbage bags to avoid getting wet. Demonstrator Silvia Barreto is a physical therapist.

SILVIA BARRETO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "This is a tragedy for Argentina," she says. "Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Kennedy, Lennon - Nisman was also silenced with a bullet," she says.

MIGUEL BRODA: Nisman has opened the eyes of a lot of people that thought that the state was much better than what it is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Economist Miguel Broda says Nisman's death and everything that has happened since is a turning point for Argentina. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Buenos Aires. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.