TIME russia

5 Disputed Numbers That Explain Geopolitics

Ukraine
Vadim Ghirda—AP Russia-backed separatist fighters stand next to self propelled 152 mm artillery pieces, part of a unit moved away from the front lines, in Yelenovka, near Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2015.

From Argentina’s economic woes to Iran’s nuclear timeline, statistics that are up for debate can tell us a lot about geopolitics. 

Every world leader uses data for political purposes. But some take it a step further. Here are five disputed stats where the controversy itself sheds light on a deeper political question.

1. How many Russians are in Ukraine?

Estimates of Russian troops in Ukraine differ dramatically depending on which side of the border you’re standing on. (That is, if you can find the border—Russian-backed separatists continue to take territory in southeast Ukraine). Ukrainian President Poroshenko proclaimed last month that there are more than 9,000 Russian troops and 500 tanks and armored vehicles in his country. But Russia claims it isn’t that many—zero, to be exact. According to a spokesman for Putin, “there are no Russian tanks or army in Ukraine.” Other players split the difference: in August, a separatist leader claimed that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian citizen “volunteers” provided assistance to the rebels.

(Reuters, CNN, LA Times)

2. How quickly could Iran build a nuclear weapon?

When Western leaders emphasize the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, there’s a recurring, essential question: How long would it take for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb? Iran consistently downplays the threat: an Iranian source cited the ‘breakout time’ at a minimum of 18 months. But Washington believes it’s drastically shorter: about 2-3 months. There’s also fierce debate about how long that breakout time should be. In ongoing nuclear negotiations, the Obama administration wants to ensure it would take at least a year. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to eliminate Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons altogether.

(Reuters, Institute for Science and International Security, New York Times)

3. Can China boast that its economy is #1?

Last year, the International Monetary Fund projected that China’s economy was about to overtake the United States’ when measured on a purchasing power basis (a less common way of measuring GDP that takes exchange rates into account). China became the world’s largest trading nation back in 2012. But even China is pushing back against any perception that it’s on top: the state-run news agency Xinhua ran a piece in January titled “China denies being world’s No. 1 economy.” Beijing is careful to stress that it’s still very much a developing country, not yet wealthy enough to take on a lot of global responsibilities. They have a point. Despite relentless growth—last year’s economic output topped $10 trillion, more than five times higher than a decade before—China’s output per person is still nowhere near that of the U.S.

(New York Times, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Economist)

4. Just how valuable for Americans would the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) be?

One of President Obama’s biggest foreign policy priorities before he leaves office is to ink the TPP, a trade agreement that includes a dozen countries that collectively account for 40% of world trade and roughly a third of global GDP. The administration is quick to point out the estimated economic benefits. According to John Kerry, “TPP could provide $77 billion a year in real income and support 650,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone.” But not everyone buys that jobs claim. The White House’s statistics come from a 2012 book by the Peterson Institute that didn’t provide a precise jobs estimate. The book’s author said he avoided doing so because, “like most trade economists, we don’t believe that trade agreements change the labor force in the long run.”

(Congressional Research Service, Washington Post)

5. How is Argentina’s economy doing?

Argentina’s economic troubles are common knowledge. So is the government’s tendency to cast the numbers in a rosier light. The government claimed 30% growth in GDP from 2007 to 2012 (5.3% annual average rate), but a study last year claimed that GDP only grew half that much and the size of the economy was at least 12% smaller than official government estimates. Then there’s the issue of inflation. The government estimates 21% inflation for this year—but some private economists expect a rate of nearly 40%. Furthermore, the government’s official exchange rate doesn’t reflect reality: one U.S. dollar is officially worth about 8.7 pesos, yet the informal rate is as high as 13.

(World Economics Journal, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, BNamericas, Bloomberg)

TIME Argentina

The Bomb Cover-Up Case Against Argentina’s President Has Been Dismissed

In this Feb. 11, 2015 file photo, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez speaks during an event announcing new government projects at the government palace Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Rodrigo Abd—AP In this Feb. 11, 2015 file photo, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez speaks during an event announcing new government projects at the government palace Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Ruling comes after the lead prosecutor died in suspicious circumstances last month

An Argentine judge dismissed a controversial case on Thursday against the country’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, citing a lack of evidence.

Kirchner and her foreign minister Héctor Timerman were accused of covering up the alleged involvement of Iranian officials in a bomb attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, reports the New York Times.

The criminal case was brought against the duo and other officials by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died mysteriously last month.

Judge Daniel Rafecas said the case filed by Nisman did not “minimally hold up” and said there was not enough evidence to launch a court investigation.

Nisman’s body was found in his apartment on Jan. 18, with a gunshot wound to the head. He was due to testify against Kirchner the following day in Congress.

The circumstances surrounding his death have not been established.

Both Kirchner and Timerman have denied they had any hand in shielding the Iranians from responsibility in the attack.

Also on Thursday, Argentine legislators approved a bill scrapping the country’s existing intelligence agency. In its place, a new federal investigative agency will be established.

[NYT]

TIME conflict

What Actually Happened in the Falklands, With or Without Bill O’Reilly

Apr. 19, 1982, cover of TIME
Cover Credit: TODD SCHORR The Apr. 19, 1982, cover of TIME, featuring the war in the Falkland Islands

The conflict between Britain and Argentina took the world by surprise

After more than three decades out of the spotlight, the Falkland Islands are back in the news, this time because of controversy over a claim that Bill O’Reilly has made misleading statements about his time covering the conflict that took place there in 1982.

O’Reilly says that he has always been honest about the fact that his reporting on the war was from Buenos Aires, not the islands themselves—as TIME reported back then, only 27 British reporters were able to get there—but Mother Jones magazine contends that his statement that he reported from active war zones suggests otherwise. The controversy continued Tuesday as O’Reilly further insisted that he never misled anyone.

But what exactly did happen in the Falklands?

In 1982, the archipelago had long been home to little else besides shepherds, sheep, 10 million penguins and a history of diplomatic disputes.

The islands had first been seen by British eyes in the 16th century, were claimed by the U.K. in the 17th century, went to Spain in the 18th century and back to Britain in 1833. Meanwhile, Argentina, which became independent from Spain during the period of Spanish control of the Falklands, claimed the right to the land—they had gained the Malvinas, their name for the islands, when Spain left, they argued—even over the objections of many who actually lived on the Islands. Argentina’s military ruler, General Galtieri, hoped to boost his own popularity by scoring a win in the islands. The locals, largely descended from Brits, did not support leaving the shelter of the British crown (which held them as a dependency, not an independent member of the commonwealth) for then-unstable but nearby rule.

In early April of 1982, the Falklands (and, by extension, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands) were defended by a few dozen British marines already on the islands when thousands of Argentine troops suddenly swept in. In fighting that lasted mere hours, the South American nation seized the territories from the U.K., which responded by breaking off diplomatic relations and, via the U.N., demanding that Argentina withdraw. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her government promised that, were the request denied, the islands would be retaken by force. And, when the British navy arrived in the area—to enforce a blockade and evacuate the invaders—that result began to seem more and more likely.

Even as war loomed, TIME observed that the spectacle was “out of nowhere, it seemed, or out of another century.” One of the world’s major powers, no longer famous for its empire, and a country on another continent, fighting a sudden territorial war over a couple of islands? Just plain weird. Nonetheless, the pride of two nations was on the line, and citizens on both sides supported action.

President Ronald Reagan was unable to mediate a diplomatic solution and, at the end of the month, thousands of Argentine troops prepared for a confrontation. Rather than landing in the Falklands directly, the British forces landed on South Georgia Island, one of the Falklands’ dependencies, to the east of the main archipelago. South Georgia was quickly captured, bringing the two sides within striking distance.

By May, Britain’s Defense Secretary announced that the nation’s aircraft had taken action “to enforce the total exclusion zone and to deny the Argentines use of the airport at Port Stanley,” the Falklands capital. Military targets in the Falklands were bombed and other nations, including the U.S., ended their neutrality in the conflict. (The U.S. sided with England; the Soviets would eventually speak up for Argentina.) Fighting increased, as did patriotic support on both home fronts, even as the costs began to climb.

As the second month of fighting drew to an end, there was nothing quaint about it. As TIME reported:

Meanwhile, preparations for an all-out war over the Falklands continued. To the skirl of bagpipes, some 3,500 Scottish, Welsh and Gurkha troops last week boarded the hastily requisitioned Queen Elizabeth 2 to begin a ten-day journey to the South Atlantic. They were intended to join some 4,000 other British soldiers in the potential invasion force aboard the 20-ship battle squadron surrounding the islands. British warships kept up a harassing bombardment of the Falklands coastline, while Sea Harrier jets sank an Argentine trawler, possibly a spy ship, that was discovered deep within the blockade zone. Argentine warplanes flew a retaliatory sortie against the blockading fleet; London said that three of the aircraft were downed, and the Argentines damaged one British frigate in the action.

Then the British added a daring new twist to their tactics. Late Friday night, a commando force slipped ashore on Pebble Island, a slice of land practically touching West Falkland Island. Supported by naval gunfire, the raiders, who were probably ferried ashore in helicopters, attacked an airstrip and Argentine military outpost, blowing up a large ammunition dump and destroying eleven aircraft. The action was a sustained one; it was only after dawn that the commando force left the island, suffering only two minor casualties. London stressed that the operation was a “raid, not an invasion,” but the assault marked the first time that British troops had set foot on the Falklands since their departure after the Argentine invasion on April 2.

The conflict finally ended in June, after a full-on fight for Port Stanley. The death tolls had reached about 250 British troops and nearly 700 Argentine. The Argentine troops were driven from the islands, and a few days later General Galtieri was replaced, even as his country continued to assert their claim to the Falklands. In England, Thatcher’s popularity soared.

And on the islands themselves, life had changed too: the mellow home of shepherds had become a military stronghold. The military investment improved the local economy and modernized the lifestyle there but did not fully resolve the conflict. Argentina still hopes to regain the territory. A 2013 vote found that 1,513 residents wanted to remain under U.K. control. Only three people voted to leave.

Read TIME’s full coverage of the beginning of the conflict, here in the TIME Vault: Gunboats in the South Atlantic

TIME Soccer

Soccer Team Takes Viagra Before a Match, Loses Anyway

San Jose v River Plate - Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2015
Javier Mamani/STR—LatinContent/Getty Images Rodrigo Mora of River (L) and Arnaldo Vera of San Jose (R) run for the ball during a match between San Jose and River Plate as part of group stage Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2015 at Jesus Bermudez Stadium on February 19, 2015 in Oruro, Bolivia.

They met stiff resistance

An Argentine soccer team tried to get ahead by taking Viagra for a match at high altitude. Unfortunately, they lost 2-0 anyway.

Club Atletico River Plate decided to take a cocktail of Sildenafil (commercially known as Viagra), caffeine and aspirin in advance of a match in Bolivia, the Washington Post reports. Research has shown that the anti-impotence drug helps boost circulation and deliver more oxygen to the muscles, allowing athletes to perform better at high altitudes.

River Plate hails from Buenos Aires, where the elevation (about 82 feet) is fairly low, while their match against San Jose de Oruro in Bolivia took place at 12,400 feet. Still, even Viagra was not enough to help them, and they lost their first group game of the Copa Libertadores de America.

“The players finished very tired and angry, because they know they played a great match,” coach Marcello Gallardo said, according to the club’s website. “[The team’s center back] Pezzella is still sore.”

TIME On Our Radar

Nine Argentinian Photographers You Need to Follow

Argentinian photography boasts a coterie of brilliant, established artists.

Once one of the richest countries in the world, with a per capita income comparable to France and Germany, Argentina experienced political and economic turmoils during the latter half of the 2oth Century that saw the country fall into recession.

This sense of instability, it could be argued, has influenced an entire generation of photographers and artists. Their creativity, perhaps, seems to arise not only from the country’s strong visual tradition but also from a seeming lack of access to resources; a lack that seems to stimulate a process of analyzing, understanding and narrating everyday life. In this context, Argentinian photography may be slowly finding its feet internationally, but it still boasts a coterie of brilliant, established artists.

Alejandro Chaskielberg (Buenos Aires, 1977) – Alejandro Chaskielberg brings an original style to the field of documentary photography, characterized by precise composition and a cinema-like use of light. His images are mesmerizing stories that tell us a lot about the subjects and their nocturnal worlds. Widely known for his work La Creciente, a project shot in full moon nights at the Parana River Delta, he was recently awarded the prestigious Iberoamerican Photobook Award for his latest work Otsuchi Future Memories on the remains of the Japanese beach village hit by a tsunami in 2011.

Alessandra Sanguinetti (New York, 1968) Raised in Argentina, where she lived from 1970 to 2003, Alessandra Sanguinetti studied at the International Center of Photography in New York and joined Magnum in 2007. Many of her most poignant works are related to childhood and daily life. Her images are free of visual cliche and seem partially autobiographical, betraying a strong connection between photographer and subject. In this sense, The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and The Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams, a long-term project on the lives of two cousins living in a rural area, could be seen as her signature work.

Marcelo Brodsky (Buenos Aires, 1954) Marcelo Brodsky studied photography in Barcelona during a period of exile from Argentina in the 1980s. His photography covers human rights issues, as well as the passage of time. Buena Memoria, his most representative work, references the two classmates from the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires kidnapped and murdered during the military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla. The work is a lucid and touching picture of how the turbulent political scene of the second half of the 20th Century affected everyday life. Brodsky is still active and has recently launched a visual action in support of the 43 students kidnapped in Iguala, Mexico.

Rodrigo Abd (Buenos Aires, 1976) Rodrigo Abd is a staff photographer for the Associated Press who has been covering the most significant conflicts of the last decade. The war in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring and gang-related drug trade in Guatemala are just some of the stories he has documented. His work is characterized by a close approach to the subject and a deep understanding of social and historical contexts. His powerful images have been recognized with prestigious awards such as the 2012 World Press Photo in General News Singles and the 2013 Pulitzer Prize.

Ananké Asseff (Buenos Aires, 1971) Ananké Asseff’s conceptual photography seems to originate from an intense journey into paranoia and fear, themes that are always present in her work. The subjects portrayed in their homes holding guns in her series Potential, one of her most recognized works, seem to represent the feeling of insecurity among the Argentinian bourgeoisie of the mid 2000s. Indeed, hypothetical danger is typically found in her work, and a sense of tension seems to connect one image to the next. She often plays with other elements such as aesthetics, colors and composition to an impressive effect.

Esteban Pastorino (Buenos Aires, 1972) Esteban Pastorino explores the artist’s creative process and questions our perception of reality. In projects like Aérea 2005-2010, for example, he uses Kite Aerial Photography — a sort of precursor of drone photography — to lift cameras and shoot from previously inaccessible vantage points. The results are ambiguous images that subvert reality and transform real places into fantasy worlds.

Irina Werning (Buenos Aires, 1976) Irina Werning’s work focuses on daily life. Among her pieces, the celebrated Back to the Future, stands out. Here, she recreates, years later, moments taken from her subject’s childhood photographs. The simplicity of these portraits promotes an understanding not only of the physical changes we go through, but also examines the social backgrounds of her subjects.

Marcos López (Gálvez, Santa Fe, 1958) Marcos Lopez has been describing contemporary society in Argentina and across the continent for decades. His characteristic use of color and composition tell us about diverse social circumstances, customs and stereotypes with a hint of sarcasm. Latin American society itself is the protagonist here, depicted in a melodramatic and surrealistic way. Lopez speaks of everyday life without being afraid of self-analysis or letting go of his own sense of humor.

Nicolas Janowski (Buenos Aires, 1980) Nicolas Janowski covers various social themes across the Latin American continent through a very personal point of view, one characterized by a dream-like transformation of the people and places documented. In The Blurred City, Janowski invites us to rethink a megalopolis like Buenos Aires as an open-air theater where the most diverse and unexpected things can happen. In The Liquid Serpent, Janowski brings us on a deep journey in the Amazonian forest where everything seems to melt into one mass, encouraging a viewer to reexamine reality.

Giuseppe Oliverio is the Founder and CEO of the Photographic Museum of Humanity

TIME Argentina

Argentine President Mocks Chinese Accent on Twitter

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gestures during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not in photo) at the Great Hall of the People on Feb. 4, 2015 in Beijing.
Rolex dela Pena —Getty Images Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gestures during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not in photo) at the Great Hall of the People on Feb. 4, 2015 in Beijing.

“Are they here only for the lice and petloleum”

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, embattled by controversy at home, might have been expected to be extra careful on her visit to China where she’s looking to boost investment in her country’s sputtering economy.

But the Argentine President, who met with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday and joined a meeting of 1,000 Argentine and Chinese businessmen, sparked a flurry of online outrage when she posted a tweet mocking the Chinese accent by replacing r’s with l’s:

“Are they here only for the lice and petloleum,” she said in Spanish, in a tweet that has been shared more than 1,500 times since she posted it Wednesday:

Fernández, who has more than 3.5 million followers on Twitter, followed up the initial tweet a minute later with another post that appeared to respond to the commotion over her earlier comment:

“Sorry, do you know what? The levels of ridiculousness and absurdity are so high they can only be digested with humor,” she said.

Fernández’s government has been rocked by the death of Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor investigating the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center. Nisman’s body was found the day before he had been expected to testify before Congress that the President had covered up Iran’s alleged involvement in the attack.

On Thursday, the lead investigator into Nisman’s death said that a warrant for Fernández’s arrest signed by the prosecutor had been found in the garbage in his apartment.

 

TIME Argentina

Prosecutor Found Dead Had Drafted Arrest Warrant for Argentine President

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Juan Mabromata—AFP/Getty Images Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gestures during the 47th Mercosur Summit, in Parana, Entre Rios, Argentina on Dec. 17, 2014.

The document was found in a garbage in the apartment of the late Alberto Nisman

The saga surrounding the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Argentina last month took another twist Tuesday, when the lead investigator said Nisman had drafted a warrant for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The 26-page document was found in the garbage at Nisman’s apartment where he was discovered dead with a gunshot wound to the head on Jan. 18, the New York Times reports. The document also requested the arrest of the country’s foreign minister, Héctor Timerman.

Nisman had been heading the investigation into the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center when he died. He was expected to testify before Congress the day after he died about his allegations that Kirchner had covered up Iran’s alleged involvement in the attack.

Read more at the New York Times

 

TIME Argentina

Murdered Argentine Prosecutor ‘Didn’t Trust His Bodyguards’

Diego Lagomarsino , assistant of late prosecutor Alberto Nisman speaks during a press conference in Buenos Aires, Jan. 28, 2015.
David Fernandez—EPA Diego Lagomarsino, assistant of late prosecutor Alberto Nisman speaks during a press conference in Buenos Aires, Jan. 28, 2015.

Diego Lagomarsino had been in hiding since Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

The man who lent Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman the gun that killed him said Nisman had told him he was afraid for his family’s life.

Diego Lagomarsino said at a news conference on Wednesday that he lent the pistol to Nisman, his employer who was found dead in his apartment on Jan. 18, after the prosecutor told him he did not even trust the bodyguards, Reuters reports.

“At this point, he cracked up, and said: ‘Do you know what it is like for your children not to want to be with you just in case something happens to them?” Lagomarsino said, according to Reuters.

Lagomarsino was charged on Tuesday with illegally lending a weapon that was registered in his name, becoming the only person so far charged in Nisman’s mysterious death, which investigators initially indicated was a suicide while others, including President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, say they believe he was murdered.

Nisman was investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and was set to testify before Congress the day after he died about his allegations that Fernández covered up Iran’s alleged involvement in the attack.

[Reuters]

TIME Argentina

Argentine President Says Prosecutor Who Accused Her Was Murdered

A woman chants the Argentine national anthem holding a portrait of the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman outside the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Jan. 21, 2015.
Rodrigo Abd—AP A woman chants the Argentine national anthem holding a portrait of the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman outside the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Jan. 21, 2015.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner previously said Alberto Nisman took his own life

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner made a dramatic U-turn on Thursday when she said she was certain that prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered although she had previously insisted he had taken his own life.

In a rambling 2800-word letter published on her social media accounts on Thursday, Fernández described Nisman’s death as “the suicide that (I am convinced) was not a suicide.” Nisman’s body was found late Sunday night, only a few hours before he was about to present evidence in Congress that he claimed showed Fernández had negotiated secretly to shield five Iranian officials from charges they had masterminded a bombing in Buenos Aires that resulted in 85 deaths in 1994.

MORE Argentinian Prosecutor Who Accused President of Bomb Plot Cover-Up Found Dead

The president’s first claim that Nisman had committed suicide (“What led (Nisman) to take the terrible decision of ending his own life?” she asked on Monday) fell apart in the face of mounting evidence against the suicide theory.

Her government’s first claim that the back door to Nisman’s apartment was locked from the inside was disproved when investigators revealed that the door was not locked and there was also a third entrance to his home. Investigators could not find any gunpowder residue on Nisman’s hands, which would have suggested he had fired a gun.

On top of that, a long list of friends, journalists and even his personal trainer came forward to say that Nisman was eagerly looking forward to appearing before the Argentine Congress on Jan. 19. Nisman had even set up a series of meetings and interviews for the following week.

Both his former wife, 45-year-old Judge Sara Arroyo Salgado, and his mother, 73-year-old Sara Garfunkel, who found his body on Sunday, came out firmly against the suicide hypothesis. “All kinds of things have been said about my son,” Garfunkel said in a brief phone call with the daily Clarín Thursday, answering with a “No” when asked if she thought he had taken his own life.

Nisman’s planned presentation of the evidence to Congress on Monday would have damaged Fernández’s already-beleaguered administration. She is in the last year of a two-term presidency that has been badly shaken by crippling inflation, recession and charges of corruption involving her highest officials.

MORE These Are the Elections to Watch Around the World in 2015

The president has not been seen in public since before Christmas, when she sprained an ankle in an accident.

Nisman’s breakthrough in the bombing case came in 2007 when he was able to provide enough evidence for Interpol to issue international warrants for the arrest of the Iranians he identified as his main suspects.

His friends say he felt he was on the verge of a similar breakthrough. “I had seen him in person on Wednesday,” says Waldo Wolff, vice-president of DAIA, the most important Jewish community association in Argentina. “And I spoke to him on the phone on Saturday night after he sent me a photo via Whatsapp of his desk covered with the papers of the presentation he was preparing for Congress on Monday. He seemed well, his usual extroverted self.”

A poll this week showed that 70% of people in Argentina believe Nisman was murdered, while only 12% agree with the government’s hypothesis that he took his own life. The survey by the Ipsos research firm also revealed that 82% believed that Nisman’s charges that President Fernández was involved in secret deals with the accused Iranians are “credible.”

“Just in case, so you know, I have no plan to commit suicide,” says journalist Nicolás Wiñazki, who was in constant communication with Nisman in the days before his death. “Nobody believes the government,” Wiñazki says. “He was optimistic and looking forward to appearing before Congress, he was answering my messages with positive emoticons, thumbs-up and smileys up till Saturday. Then on Sunday he stopped answering.”

The same skepticism was expressed by Nisman’s former wife and mother of his two daughters, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, who appeared in court briefly two days ago. “I don’t believe it was suicide,” Arroyo Salgado said to journalists on the sidewalk outside the courtroom.

MORE Mystery Surrounds the Death of the Prosecutor Who Challenged the Argentine President

Nisman’s aim of bringing the suspects to justice was delayed in 2013, when Argentina’s Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman flew to Ethiopia to sign a surprise agreement with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi. The document established a binational “truth commission” to investigate the bombing and agreed to inform Interpol that the two countries were working together to solve the case.

The unexpected deal with Iran was met with protest at home, not least because it seemed to dash whatever hopes remained of bringing the main suspects to trial in Buenos Aires. “It was unbelievable,” says Wolff. “Signing a pact with a country accused of the worst terrorist attack ever in Argentina.”

What Nisman afterwards claimed he discovered was an attempt by Fernández to secure a secret deal trade deal with Iran in tandem with the public agreement. In a 300-page document presented in court last Wednesday, Nisman detailed secret talks between emissaries of Fernández, who communicated through a go-between in Buenos Aires, with Mohsen Rabbani, Nisman’s main suspect. The Argentine government wanted to obtain badly-needed oil from Iran to help Argentina out in exchange for the lifting of the Interpol arrest warrants, Nisman alleged.

Nisman’s evidence, including the recording of the conversations between Iranian and Argentinian representatives, are now in the the custody of Judge Ariel Lijo. He is expected to decide next month if Nisman’s evidence is enough to call Fernández in for interrogation.

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TIME Argentina

Mystery Surrounds the Death of the Prosecutor Who Challenged the Argentine President

Alberto Nisman was due to present evidence of alleged crimes to lawmakers on Monday

The violent death of a brave prosecutor who accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina of a secret attempt to cover up Iran’s alleged involvement in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires 19 years ago has sent political shock waves through her already ailing government and the rest of the country.

Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, 51, was due to appear before a special committee in the Argentine Congress on Monday afternoon to discuss the evidence contained in a 300-page indictment against President Fernández. The papers were presented to court last Wednesday.

He alleged that Fernández and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, had conspired in an “aggravated cover-up and obstruction of justice” involving the Iranians accused of bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) center in 1994 which left 85 people dead.

Nisman was found in the bathroom of his luxury apartment in the Le Parc tower in the expensive Puerto Madero district of Buenos Aires late Sunday, when his security guards forced the door after his mother became worried because he wasn’t answering his phone.

His mother found him dead in his bathroom with a bullet wound to his head and his small-calibre gun next to him. The government moved quickly to say his death was a suicide. “Who knows what went through the prosecutor’s head to take a decision of that nature,” Presidential Secretary Aníbal Fernández told reporters on Monday morning.

Opposition leader Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires and a candidate in the October presidential elections, appeared deeply shocked at a press conference on Monday. “I’ve gone from shock to indignation to anger,” Macri said. “The prosecutor who accused the president turns up dead. This can’t have happened.”

Journalist Jorge Lanata, who has investigated and published a book on the AMIA bombing, was also stunned. “People on the street are saying: ‘They (the government) killed Nisman’,” Lanata said in an interview on TV on Monday “If this was a crime story, then the government would be the main suspect.”

Nisman had reported he was receiving death threats since he presented his charges at court last week. “I could wind up dead because of this,” he told the newspaper Clarín. “My life changed today. It’s my job as a prosecutor and I’ve had to tell my 15-year-old daughter that she was going to hear tremendous things about me,” he added, referring to a likely smear campaign from the government following his charges.

The two top trending topics on Twitter in Argentina on Monday became: #MuerteDeNisman (DeathOfNisman) and #CFKAsesina (CFKMurderer) in reference to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

In 2007, on the basis of Nisman’s investigations into the attack, Interpol issued international warrants against six Iranian officials accused of masterminding the bombing. Among them was Moshen Rabbani, the former Iranian cultural attaché in Buenos Aires when the blast occured, Nisman’s prime suspect in the case.

Nisman’s investigation was stopped two years ago when Foreign Minister Timerman signed a surprise memorandum with Iran setting up a binational “truth commission” to interrogate the Iranian suspects in Teheran, effectively suspending his attempt to have them extradited to Argentina.

Nisman said his indignation doubled when he discovered that a wiretap his investigation had placed on phone calls between Buenos Aires and Rabbani in Iran allegedly revealed that the 2013 agreement had been the result of secret phone conversations between negotiators appointed by Fernández and Rabbani himself.

“Nothing happened without express directives from the president,” Nisman said in a 45-minute interview on TN news channel on Wednesday night, referring to the wiretapped conversations between Buenos Aires and prime suspect Rabbani.

The charges seemed to deal a crushing blow to Fernández in the final year of a presidency already encumbered with a 40% yearly inflation rate, a default on Argentina’s foreign debt last July and a court investigation into corruption charges against her Vice-President, Amado Boudou.

Nisman said he had 330 discs of phone conversations in which the alleged Argentine secret negotiators referred to him as a “dirty Jew” in their conversations with Iran. The calls showed the negotiators passed secret information from his investigation to the Iranians, Nisman claimed.

Under direct orders from the president, three negotiators had conducted secret talks with Rabbani through a mediator since 2011, offering to clear him and the other Iranian suspects of charges, in return for Iranian oil to alleviate Argentina’s chronic energy deficit, the prosecutor alleged on TV.

“You can’t negotiate impunity with anybody, and especially not with the accused. Iran admits and even boasts that it carried out the attack,” the prosecutor said of the intercepted calls. “It’s astounding how the attack is admitted.”

Reports of his suicide were met with disbelief by various journalists, including this correspondent, who had been in contact with Nisman in the last few days. “He seemed confident and ready to appear before Congress today,” said Nicolás Wiñazki on TV, who last
had contact with Nisman on Saturday afternoon. Nisman promised this correspondent an interview on Monday but later brought it forward by one day to Sunday but failed to answer any further emails.

For survivors and relatives of the victims of the still unsolved blast, however, Nisman’s death is just another in a long series of letdowns in a 19-year investigation that has failed to put a single culprit in jail.

“The culprits in the case must be found,” blast survivor Mario Averbuch remarked angrily to reporters Monday morning. “We have cover-ups, charges, versions, but regarding the case itself we have nothing.”

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