Clarin: Bye bye, Nisman

By Héctor Gambini, 9 August 2015

It’s not time. Not yet. Penelope unraveled the fabric at night that she’d woven during the day to stretch out the time until the eternal return of Ulysses. Some in the justice system are acting the same way. They push up the blindfold, look at who is in the dock, tip the balance toward one side and then begin to unravel it. But Ulysses will never come home.

There is still time to go back for the full, absolute and definitive clarification of the darkest death in Argentina since the crime of José Luis Cabezas, 18 years ago. Is tomorrow the time, after the PASO? Or will it still wait until the elections in October? If so and there is a runoff, will the case advance to November, or we will have to wait for the government to go out of power? We’ll be in December, the holidays come, then the holidays go. And bye-bye Nisman.

The death of the prosecutor immersed us under a flood of turbulent questions, chilly ones. Did he kill himself? Why? How come he didn’t leave a message for his beloved daughters? How is it that after working hard on his complaint against the President, setting up meetings with colleagues, talking to reporters, out of nowhere he asks for a gun from an obscure employee who brings it over without a word and goes up the elevator with one of his bodyguards? Was he killed by his own will or was he induced to do so? Or was he murdered? Was it like this? And how many murderers acted, how was the crime carried out, when, by whom?

It’s been 203 days since that Sunday, January 18. Not one of those initial questions have been answered.

Not that these nearly seven months are an exaggerated period of time for a complex investigation. It is the intricate succession of more or less obvious blunders, basted with a casual air, ranging from some salted and backtracked steps when things no longer made sense (the examination on Nisman’s car, parked in the open, six months after his death) to an excess of useless formality, like the calling of a witness who told Clarin that the crime scene was a disaster, when the disaster happened while the prosecutor was present, who then called the witness to tell her what she already knew because she had been there. Concentric circles that go to nowhere. They only serve to stretch out time, like the hands of Penelope.

The last point to unravel has just happened. This week the forensic expert Gustavo Presman reached the Prosecutors’ Offices with full finished reports and technological expertise on paper. It is mainly, as Clarin reported yesterday, the technical explanation for the strange activities recorded on Nisman’s computer and cellular phone on the same weekend that their owner was found in the bathroom with a bullet in his head. A computer whose health was cared for by Diego Lagomarsino, the technician who was famous not for Nisman’s software, but for bringing him the gun that killed him. A technician who had learned how to shoot from an intelligence agent.

But the expert was unable to leave the reports there. At the check-in desk, he was told to return the following week -this week- because “an inventory had to be made of what was going to move through reception and there was not enough staff to do it”, one of the investigators in the case told Clarin.

Enough staff will appear, as if by magic, after today’s elections.

“The ground-shaking from the issue of Anibal Fernandez and ephedrine was already more than enough for the pre-election week. It would be crazy if new official information appeared from the Nisman case in the same week,” a source said who considered the refusal to receive the finished report that could help shed light on the death, which mobilized thousands of people to demand justice, as “a groundless excuse.”

When the elections come and the judiciary agrees to review the evidence, experts from the parties will advance to another final conclusion on the functioning of the security cameras in the Le Parc towers: of the 160 cameras installed only 98 were working. And half of them were recording only half a day. That means that Le Parc didn’t have 160 security cameras recording all throughout the day, as the residents of the condominium believed, but only 49.

The one that should show Lagomarsino going down the elevator with other people, as he declared, after leaving the gun with Nisman, was one of the 111 that was not filming or was only doing so part of the time. In the conspiracy theories about the case, it’s a set-up for any intelligence service that wants to plan something far from prying eyes.

While the days pass and politics moves its pieces around on the board, three of Nisman’s bodyguards will vote today and will follow the election results at home, drinking mate. Ruben Benitez, Luis Minho and Armando Niz are “preventively available” since the outbreak of the case. Under punishment by the Federal Police, they still have no legal charges against them.

Are they really being punished? The administrative suspension is a limbo which prevents the police from continuing to work, but it keeps them in their capacity as Federal officers, with salary included. They may stay this way up to two years, and then be forced out or assigned to a post, to return to work as if nothing had happened.

More than a punishment, it’s like a form of mutual protection. The police keep their jobs and the Federal Police retains control over them. So it is not strange that none of the three has ever spoken about the case. Although Security Secretary Sergio Berni said several times that those cops would end up being sacked, seven months have passed and they’re still there. If they’re fired, the Federal Police loses control over them.

Armando Niz, one of those bodyguards, had to be operated on for cancer on January 20, just 48 hours after the Sunday when Nisman was found dead. Medical leave for prolonged periods is common for the police. What would an ill sergeant, about to face a delicate operation, be doing working just that Sunday? Two days later they removed his kidney at Hospital Churruca.

Sergeant Niz was not just one of Nisman’s bodyguards. He was precisely the one who found his body in the bathroom and the only policeman who entered the prosecutor’s apartment as the locksmith opened the door, along with Nisman’s mother and a friend of hers.

When he entered, Niz entered a crime scene whose preservation and transparency had already entered into the history of forensic procedures: everything we then saw on TV is exactly what one should not do.

The professor of all the experts in the field is the coroner for the family who contends that Nisman was murdered. Osvaldo Raffo will turn 85 years old on October 31 and on Thursday he gave his last public talk. The theme was “The crime scene and forensic autopsy.” A university invited him to speak for two hours and he spoke for four. He was cheered and had tears in his eyes. The audience bombarded him with questions about the Nisman case, which Raffo avoided answering. “Don’t ask me why. I cannot talk about it … ,” he apologized. And he said goodbye saying: “What happened is what you all believe happened.”

Ulysses took 10 years to return to Troy. In that amount of time in Argentina three presidents will have gone by and the Nisman case may be found in the best history textbooks

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