TRANSCRIPTION OF CFK INTERVIEW WITH THE NEW YORKER
Journalist: Thank you very much and I am sorry I have to conduct the interview in English and not in Spanish. Thanks for your time. I can imagine how busy you are, so I am very grateful. My magazine has assigned me here to investigate and write on Alberto Nisman’s death, but I have seen a lot in Argentina since I’m in the country, so I would like to ask you about your country and about the extraordinary eight years you have had in office, along with the years your husband was in office. I have been reviewing the records and you have done a lot, the country has gone through many things, but what surprised me the most, I believe, the most outstanding fact, was the way how Argentina has judged the military during democracy for crimes committed during the ‘70s and early ‘80s. This has not been the case almost anywhere else in the world. I would like you to tell me about how you could achieve this. Your husband started by telling the generals “I am not afraid of you,” and I also saw that time at the former ESMA military school where he ordered the portraits to be removed…
CFK: It was tough.
J: It is surprising and there are no precedents in the region, or in the world, I would say, there have been very few cases in which the militaries have had to face trial for what they did. The ‘70s was such an unusual period, and so violent. I would like you to tell me about how you made it, how you and your husband started the whole process… I believe by now there are some 500 people in prison, and more pending trials…
CFK: No, it’s even more. I believe 500 have already been sentenced, over 1000 convicted and 900 in the prosecution phase. In fact this process has been unique; there have been human rights violations in many countries in the world, but having the country judging the state terrorists or criminals in Argentina is unique; for example, the crimes committed in former Yugoslavia were judged by international courts. However, I believe the Argentine model of human rights recognition is unique, and we are very proud, because we are not in the situation of many Spaniards who are still claiming for the Civil War crimes and are still claiming in the jurisdiction of other countries, or other countries where human rights are being violated and people claim for those violations to be judged in other countries. Argentina was able to find a solution by itself, Argentine democracy could work out a settlement for its own tragedy. Because it was a tragedy, the ’70s and the 76-83 period, when we recovered democracy, were a true tragedy. A tragedy that involved forced disappearance, tortures… Argentina has the rare privilege of having incorporated the status of “detained-disappeared” into the legal system. This legal status did not exist before, and it was included as a result of what happened in Argentina. At the same time, Argentina has had a very important role in the United Nations, it has been a founding member of the Human Rights Council headquartered in Switzerland; we have signed the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons.
Today we can say that the best forensic corpse identification team is the Argentine forensic anthropology team, with the collaboration of an American, Clyde Snow, who worked very hard and trained many people, and at present is working in Mexico in the identification of the 43 students, which shows that really… How did we make it? In fact, if you looked at the surveys, like most politicians do, the topic of human rights was a matter of interest for a group, or a minority, the human rights organizations: Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the CELS [Center for Legal and Social Studies], Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, and others. But it was a limited universe, the universe of the victims, of the relatives of the victims and of those who believed that it was not possible to coexist with the murderers walking in the streets in a democratic society. It was so that Kirchner took up this topic, not because it was a topic of the agenda or something that he just claimed… and I say “claimed” because today all politicians in the world look up at the surveys before making a decision or adopting a policy, and Kirchner did not do that, Kirchner did not follow the surveys. Kirchner looked back into history, looked at the people’s faces, the faces of the mothers, of the grandmothers, of the children of the disappeared, the grandchildren. And this prompted him to promote, with the help of the Legislative Power and later of the Supreme Court of Justice, the decision to repeal the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws and to start a new democratic period in Argentina. Because the previous period was pre-democratic.
I will tell you a story of a situation I lived accompanying Nestor Kirchner in his first tour abroad in 2003. He had taken office with only 22% of votes on May 25, 2003 and I think it was in July or August that we went on a tour of Europe. We visited Brussels, we stopped in London, if I remember correctly, and then visited Spain; we were also in France, in Paris. Jacques Chirac was in the government, a man that we can ideologically describe as right wing, and I remember I joined Kirchner in the meeting with Chirac and at a certain point, after the protocol greetings, he told Kirchner: “You know, I have to tell you something: the French society cannot understand that those who assassinated, tortured and disappeared people during the dictatorship –namely the French nuns, that was a very strong case in France– are free, walking in the streets, by the rule of laws you passed, and that the murderers go unpunished. It is something that the French society cannot understand and let alone accept.” And I remember that Nestor stared at him and said: “That is going to change.” I felt so ashamed, because I always like to respond, I like to have an answer for everything, and for that question I had no answer, and that’s how it feels, I felt ashamed. This is why I think that this new phase is a process that involves all the Argentine people and has made our way into democracy.
Why am I saying that it has made our way into democracy? Because the former situation was absolutely pre-democratic, a society that had passed laws to pardon those that were responsible for state terrorism. Let us see: a criminal may escape and not be caught by the law, it may happen here and anywhere. In fact, many Nazis escaped and could not be convicted. But here, the worst part was not that they had escaped, on the contrary: democratic institutions, the Congress, the Executive branch and the Judiciary had passed laws like the Due Obedience and Final Stop that prevented them from being judged. This was also unheard of, and what happened later was also unique in that there was no place in the world where the Parliament would say: “No, if you tortured, forced people to disappear, raped and killed, you did it out of due obedience, OK, it’s all fine with you, you can walk in the streets, sit down to eat, you are free.” Then…
J: This conversation with Chirac in France, when you left the meeting you said: “Well, we will go after these people and prosecute them.” Was that the turning point when you and your husband made the determination to take action?
CFK: No, that’s not so. It would make me look good to say yes, but it would not be true. In fact, we had taken the determination much earlier. I am going to tell you something that Nestor used to tell, something he used to tell repeatedly: when he was a presidential candidate he was told that the Supreme Court of Justice was prepared to determine the constitutionality, that is to determine the legality.. because it was under discussion, of these two laws, which had been declared unconstitutional by lower instances, and the Supreme Court of Justice was prepared to declare the constitutionality of both laws and thus close the process of revision of all kinds of actions perpetrated by state terrorism. And Kirchner asked the judges not to do it, to please wait until he became president, and he thought that could be a political achievement and he wanted to do it.
In fact it was a white lie, because he always had the idea, the determination and I would add the commitment and the responsibility, because one can make decisions about one’s own life, but being in the government one cannot decide on the lives that others lost and even less on the suffering and the victims and the families and say: “I forgive you for the sake of reconciliation.” How can I forgive someone who did not kill my son but your son, or your father, or your mother? In the last instance, the only one who can forgive is the victim, the person who lost a brother, a son, a father. But me, in my role as the President, on your behalf and on behalf of your pain, how can I say “I forgive all of you”? I think it is extremely omnipotent. No. We never agreed to that.
J: You mentioned your husband, and there is a saying that goes: “It is very lonely up there.” How often do you think of your husband? You had some sort of political partnership in a way. How often do you think of him when you have to rule the country?
CFK: In fact we did not have a political partnership. It is very difficult to understand this for those who do not know the historical process lived by Argentina and by an Argentine generation known as “the generation of the ’70s.” During the ’60s and ’70s, being very young, we met at the university, it was very frequent then for both members of a couple to be political activists. Not political leaders, no, just activists. We met at the university precisely because of our political activism, and therefore, for us to work together in politics was not a decision we had made as some sort of political partnership, but a life decision, and that was how we knew each other. In fact, we, as a couple, were very similar to thousands of others, hundreds of thousands of couples in those days.
But I do not want to escape the answer, because the big question is the other, if I often think of him. Yes, I think of him all the time. I think all the time, not as I did at the beginning, in distress and anguish. Now I think of him from a different perspective, thinking of everything he did, and I wonder what he would have done, what he would do. That is something I always think about, what he would do when facing certain circumstances, what he would do, what he would have done. But what you said, the loneliness of power, yes, of course: when you have to make decisions and you are the President, you have to make the decisions yourself. In our case, he listened to me a great deal, and I listened to him, and we argued a lot. But when one was right, it was not because he was the President or was a man, or when I was right it was not because I was a woman or the President. When we argued, we were peers, not husband and wife or president and national senator, because I was a national senator, but as political activists and leaders of a political party.
And then, and I know this is difficult to understand because it is not very common in the world of politics, but well, if you investigate or ask what happened in those days in the political youth organizations and in others, there was no such difference between men and women, or couples, but it was merely a way of becoming involved in politics and a perspective on life. Now, do I miss him? Yes, of course, and I will miss him until the last of my days.
J: I would like to talk about economy. I think in the last few years the GDP has doubled in Argentina, is that right? And during your term in office and your husband’s term in office, I think it would be fair to say that Argentina has taken its own way, has outlined its own pathway incorporating many orthodox ideas or following others who said: “This is what countries like Argentina should do in the situation they are at.” And be it in their relationships with bondholders or in internal policies like renationalizing some of the major companies that had been privatized, you have designed your own way. And the way you refer to President Menem and his government. Can you describe your economic view for Argentina? What were some of the leading principles you have applied during this period?
CFK: Absolutely, yes. What you stated almost at the beginning regarding the doubling of our GDP goes together with the efforts to reduce the debt burden of Argentina. With the 1976 coup-d’etat, with the dictatorship, Argentina started a period of relentless indebtedness. And well, also of compliance with the IMF policies. And a process of deindustrialization started at the same time. By 1976-75, at the time of the coup d’etat, Argentina had almost reached a situation of “fifty-fifty” in terms of income-capital distribution. Industrial development was significant, perhaps the highest in Latin America, which had started with Peronism, when we were the country that built the most airplanes, locomotives, cars, etc. in Latin America.
In other words, we had a level of industrial development that was gradually lost then, starting with the dictatorship and most intensely during the ’90s, there was a conversion to what happened in most of the world, that is the supremacy of financial capital over industrial or work capital. I believe that in 2008, the Lehman Brothers crisis, did not break out just because of the interest rates or the subprime mortgages. It was due mostly to the conversion of the international financial system, that here in Argentina started during the military dictatorship, when the Financial Entities Law was amended, and then the process consolidated during the ’90s, when commercial banks, that were mere intermediaries for capital to produce goods and services, became investment banks and operated with financial derivatives.
Then the money started to reproduce itself. The money no longer had to go through the circuit of production of goods and services to reproduce itself, but started to grow exponentially with financial derivatives. In Argentina something similar happened with Convertibility added to the deindustrialization process. When we took office, we saw that there were two serious problems: the chronic indebtedness of Argentina, that had a debt that amounted to 160% of the GDP, a situation that many other countries in the world are facing today, and we were completely deindustrialized, that is, all industries that created jobs, that added value, that promoted growth, were devastated, because they had been devastated during the ’90s. We had lost control of the major resources of economy, energy, oil, administration of the workers pension funds in the hands of the “pension funds administrators, the AFJPs.” This is where we started… And on top of that, our unemployment rate was 25%. At that time Nestor made a speech in the United Nations, his first UN speech, in September 2003, when he defined what I think is the core of our model, when he told the world in that UN Assembly: “Let us grow so that we can honor the debt, because the dead do not pay their debts.”
Growing meant to start opening industries again, to create, to increase salaries so that demand would increase, and then… You know that in economics there are two major discussions, whether it is supply or demand. In other words, what is the driver of economy, supply or demand. We maintain that if there is no demand, there is no investment, because industries only produce if they are certain that they will be able to sell their products. This is so unless you have an innovative product, as was the case with Henry Ford and the automobile, a pioneer of American capitalism, or the case of Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, who created demand through technological innovation. So in those cases supply comes first, and then demand, but in all the rest in the world, if there is no innovation, demand comes first, so we needed to regain people’s purchasing power. Purchasing power to develop a strong domestic market. What we did was to look into the original United States development model. How does the US grow? Well, I believe that it is based on the growth of the domestic market, with strong protection of the local industry and the local agricultural products.
A strong discourse in favor of free trade outside the borders, but strong protection inside the borders, which I am not criticizing, on the contrary, we looked into what the United States did during Roosevelt’s times and how it grew, and well, I believe that is the key. We determined that we needed labor, creating jobs, well paid jobs…
J: In looking back into 2002, the time of the crisis, is there any lesson learned? Do you wonder sometimes about Europe? They have had seven years with no growth in most cases, and they have done it following the standard economic recipes. They have cut down on budgets, social services, and have not grown. I wonder, do you consider that the Argentine way is some sort of model based on what has happened in other countries, for example in Europe, where they have suffered a similar crisis and have not managed to get out of it?
CFK: Yes, I think so, I think there is an Argentine model. In fact, we have achieved something unique in the United Nations: after a debate in which we received the support of the G77+China, we are currently discussing the adoption of a sovereign debt restructuring convention in the next US Assembly. One of the main problems the world is facing, most specifically Europe, is that of the sovereign debts. The US of course is the most heavily indebted country in the world, but they do not have this problem, because they have the dollar-making machine.
They transfer their problem, namely inflation, abroad, and when they value their currency they produce a capital flight to quality from emerging countries to the center. Yes, we believe that this is a model. In fact, in Greece, the winners of the last elections have taken us as a model. When we look at Europe, the European Union, that was so much praised for such a long time, it has a very serious problem, that is of adopting a common monetary unit and resigning to use the local currency, that is key to any economic process. Giving up… The United States would never give up to its currency being a reserve currency, and everyone says “Inflation,” “No to inflation,” but the 100 dollar bill continues to be the same 100 dollar bill and will never be changed, and you cannot say that a million dollars will buy the same as it used to buy 20 years ago in the US. Moreover, 30 years ago, someone who had a million dollars in the US was a millionaire, and today this is not the case.
I believe that Argentina is a model, not as an administration model but in terms of what happened with its debt, its debt restructuring. When we decided to restructure the debt, Nestor worked on a platform. He maintained, and we maintain, that when convertibility was in effect, foreign capital came in at annual rates of 15% to 16%, when in any other country in the world the rate in dollars would not be higher than 2%. Then, Nestor maintained, in crude capitalism language, that it is all about risk, taking risk, that is, if I put my money in a certain country at 16% and it is the only place that pays 16%, because in the rest of the world I will be paid 2%, and then that country cannot return the money, I have to assume part of the risk. Then he said that the world that encouraged this, the IMF, that took Argentina in the ’90s as an outstanding student, should also take part of the risk and bear responsibility for part of the debt. In any case, we paid better than Enron to its shareholders. Enron paid 10 cents for each dollar it had received, and defaulted, we paid more cents for each dollar, I think we paid around 35 cents of a dollar, so if we compare with the Enron bankruptcy, Argentina was much more fair with its creditors than Enron was with its creditors, that were mostly American citizens.
And I believe that what we are discussing right now in the United Nations is very simple to do, it is merely about having a global bankruptcy law. In the United States, cities can go bankrupt, companies can go bankrupt. The company creditors meet with the bankruptcy judge and say, the company proposes to pay in a certain way, and if a certain percentage of the creditors agree, I think in the United States 66% agreement is required, the other creditors have to accept the proposal, because it is a matter of preserving the continuity of the business. What does the judge seek in a bankruptcy? To let the business continue, because if business continues, the workers keep their jobs, and the company can recover, can pay its debts, can continue to produce. The mechanism we propose in this new international convention is exactly the same, based on what? On the Argentine model.
Argentina managed to restructure its debt, with Kirchner the restructuring was accepted by 76%, almost 77% of creditors, and with me in 2010 we got approval of almost 92.4% of creditors, 92.4%. If we consider that out of 100% of your creditors, 92.4% accepts your payment proposal and you have been paying systematically since 2005, without resorting to the capital market, because we had no access to the capital markets as a result of the debt default, that had been defaulted by a different administration. And, what is most curious and funny at the same time is that the debt that my government and Nestor Kirchner’s government paid is not debt that we incurred into during our administration, it is that 160% of GDP debt that we already had.
And today Argentina is the country that has most reduced its debt exposure. This was reported a short time ago by an American consultant, McKinsey, stating that Argentina is the country that has reduced its debt to a larger extent as compared to other countries that have increased it above 100. We are at -11%, minus 11%. And today we have the lowest indebtedness level of our history. In foreign currency, that is in dollars and euros, to private persons, national or foreign, only 9.5% of GDP.
This means a country that has reduced the debt burden. This, I believe, is a central aspect of our administration, it allowed us to create resources, and also, based on a very strong industrial policy, it has allowed us to create jobs and face payment of the debt, also with development in the Argentine primary sector, mostly in agricultural exports, with a very high level of competitiveness. And also with a tax policy…
J: Everything you say seems to suggest that the rules of the international financial system work against developing countries. Then your husband and you, when you took office, you inherited this heavy burden of the debt and I can see that this matter underlies a good part of your speeches and you say that rules need to change because they do not work for developing countries in the same way as they do for developed countries. And a good part of the warnings that Argentina and other countries receive come from countries that never did this. Does that mean that the rules are not fair?
CFK: International financial rules are not good for developed countries either. Your country, the United States, has an inequality gap like it has never had in history. I do not know whether you have read Thomas Piketty’s book, “Capital in the twenty-first century,” it is very good. He says that the most equal, more equalitarian income distribution period was the one between the end of World War I and the fall of the Berlin Wall, mostly during World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall, that was the time of the most equal income distribution. The financial rules applied today are not good for the United States either. More than 80 million Americans have no health care coverage. One percent (1%) of Americans have immense fortunes. If we think of “Friends,” for example, an excellent TV series, today it would make no sense, because it would not reflect the reality of American youth or of most of the youth American youth at least.
What I mean is that these rules end up having an impact everywhere; one of the big problems the US has is illegal immigration that leads to so much discussion and debate between Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, the Tea Party, and others. Let us see, if people could live better in Mexico, or in Colombia, or in all the countries where people want to go to the United States, these problems would not exist. In fact, these financial rules are good for none. Neither for developed nor for non-developed countries. Of course, those that end up paying the price are emerging countries, because we were told that the 2008 crisis was limited only to the American financial system and mortgages. But then it extended to Europe, today Europe is undergoing a crisis, and now the crisis is being exported from developed countries to emerging countries by raising the dollar and lowering the price of commodities, which is a way of going back to a trade exchange system similar to the one prevailing before the emergence of China. What is happening is that the world has changed so much with the emergence of the South East Asia giants, mostly China and all of the South East, that in fact we are living in a totally different world. And I think that those who believe it can be conducted in the same way as 20 years before are wrong.
J: I wanted to ask you precisely about that. If we talk about Argentine foreign policy in the last years, I believe one can say that, just like in the economic arena you have tried to trace a different course for Argentina, and—correct me if I am oversimplifying—but you have distanced yourselves a little from the United States and have grown closer to countries like Venezuela, Russia, China, Iran. I don’t know if I’m oversimplifying, but when you look at the world and see the rising powers and the waning powers, when you try to ride the wave of the next 20 or 30 years, it will be Russia and China, not the United States. So, does that explain the different path you have chosen for Argentina?
CFK: You used a term, “simplification.” I believe it is misinformation. It is lack of information. Why? First of all, in our country, the first investor is Spain, and the second investor is the United States. Here in Argentina there are at least 500 American companies, including the 100 most important American companies. During the ’90s, we had a trade surplus with the United States; nowadays, the United States has a trade surplus with us. Our largest deficit is with China, but our second largest one is with the United States. Because, nowadays, global matters are not contingent on whether I like Obama, or Bush, or Xi Jinping, or if I like Putin better. If we are going to talk economics, I want to see the numbers. And the numbers say that the second investor is the United States, and the numbers tell me that I have a trade deficit with the United States, so there is a well-oiled commercial exchange between Argentina and the United States. What’s more, I believe that the United States has perhaps closed its doors to Argentina. For instance, we are about to win a dispute at the WTO because the United States does not allow the import of Argentine beef—the best beef in the world—using non-tariff or phytosanitary barriers and also prevents the import of lemons to defend its producers, and Argentina is the first exporter and producer of lemons in the world. So we are not distancing ourselves from the United States to approach Russia or China, there’s simply an acknowledgement of a multi-polar world. So, seeing how the Chinese have evolved from ’49 until now… for instance, there’s an example I always mention: In ’49, Argentina manufactured railway engines, trains, planes, ships. In ’49, Mao was arriving in Beijing after the Long March with millions of starving Chinese eating one bowl of rice a week. Now, if you go to China, you see how they’ve become a world power.
It is the United States’ main creditor because it is the biggest US bondholder. The G20 cannot pass any resolution without the approval of the United States and China. I have to say this plainly. The G20 could be the G2, we can remove the ‘0,’ leave only China and the United States in, and it would be exactly the same. So stirring the pot saying that Argentina or some other Latin American countries are growing closer to China or Russia…
No, this is a different world. And it is also true that China offers investments in infrastructure works in our country, such as hydroelectricity dams and the financing of trains. See how, in 1949, Mao arrived eating rice while we made engines and trains. Now I cannot manufacture in my country, due to the whole deindustrialization process we had, so I purchase engines and trains from China, who also gives me very substantial financing. So this is not about growing closer to other countries, because today… let’s see. China has a particular economic development model but, in actuality, today, the East-West, Capitalism-Communism division we knew collapsed together with the Berlin Wall. And we are actually in a whole different era. Some people, like Francis Fukuyama, thought that the fall of the Berlin Wall brought with it the end of history. But I believe history, if we divide it… It is said that the discovery of America ushered in the modern era, others say it was the Renaissance. I believe the historians of tomorrow will discuss when postmodernism actually started: Was it with the fall of the Berlin Wall or was it with the fall of the Twin Towers? And I’ll tell you why. I can’t remember what I was doing when the Berlin Wall collapsed. If you ask me, “What were you doing in ’89? What were you doing at that moment?” the truth is I cannot remember. Now, if you ask me what I was doing on 9-11, I can give you an account per day, per hour, I can give you all the details. I was able to see the second plane crashing into the second tower. Even if I live 100 years more, I will never forget that. It leaves a mark on you when an era changes, when someone can remember what they were doing at an exact moment. And I believe that, if you ask the 7 billion inhabitants of this world what they were doing on 9-11, they will all be able to tell you. Yet I’m sure half of them won’t remember what they were doing when the Berlin Wall fell.
Sure, it was a geopolitical issue, a United States security issue, it was related to its clash with Russia or the Soviet Union, to be more precise, sure. But the truth is that we are in a new world, a new age of civilization where the struggle is not based on this economic model as regards the ownership of the means of production, of capitalism, of how we want to live, on whether there will be consumption. Everybody wants to consume, but I always say that the Berlin Wall fell on both sides. I don’t believe the Berlin Wall fell because the United States was more powerful militarily, economically, financially, or scientifically. I believe the Berlin Wall fell because those who lived on the communist side wanted to live like the people on the other side. Consuming, with freedom, deciding what to do with their lives and not letting the Government decide for them. That is the great triumph, which I don’t think is currently visible in our world problems. We are in a new age of civilization because people have already decided, at least the world as it is known to us has decided how it wants to live. I was recently in China, it is the third time I was in China, ok? The third time I’ve been in China. The first time was in 2004 with Nestor Kirchner, I still saw bicycles in Beijing. The second time was in 2010, I was already President then. And now I just went again. At least in Beijing, I didn’t see a single bike, I saw cars, millions of cars, each more modern and more beautiful than the other, as I had never seen before. And each time I go I discover more buildings, more hotels.
So this discussion about whether we want to consume or not, it’s over. That stage came to an end. Now we are in a new world where clashes are ethnic, religious, which is why I think this era was ushered in by the collapse of the towers, the terrorist attack on the towers, rather than the fall of the Berlin Wall. That is my belief. That is why I’m saying that to talk about an approach to Russia and to China… Are Russia and China communist? In Russia, when you go to Moscow, what difference can you find with New York? Well, of course, you have the Kremlin on one side, the Saint Sophia Church, but you will also find all the stores.
J: They are a bit authoritarian.
CFK: Oh, well, yes, yes, yes, they are different. Well, let’s see… I read a very interesting column… That thing about authoritarianism, we have to analyze that too. I read a very interesting column in the New York Times in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. A star journalist of the New York Times—I can’t remember who, I’m sure you remember better—said… Do you remember how everyone adopted the slogan “I am Charlie Hebdo?” Well, I think an article in the New York Times by a famous writer said “I am not Charlie Hebdo.” And he said that there was a lot of hypocrisy in the United States, because if someone in the United States wanted to write what Charlie Hebdo wrote, mocking a religion or making fun of the United States or the flag, the Government or some prosecutor would have forbidden it.
Moreover, this journalist said that in many American university campuses, certain leaders who were not liked or who had somewhat radical ideas could not give speeches. So he said there was a lot of hypocrisy in that. Well, in fact, in the United States, let us recall the New York Times journalist who was sentenced for mentioning the name of a spy, the wife of an ambassador, or someone from the CIA who was an ambassador, I can’t remember the exact circumstances. I’m sure you do. But a journalist was sent to jail. For example, in my country that would be impossible and unthinkable, fortunately, no journalist can be imprisoned for mentioning that John Doe is a member of the CIA, Mossad, or the Argentine Secret Services. That is why I’m saying that the notion of authoritarianism should be analyzed more clearly, more thoroughly, and taking into account what happens in one’s own country, right?
J: Can you please talk about the agreement with Iran? Can you talk about that? It has been discussed at length, particularly since the death of Alberto Nisman. But, what were you trying to achieve with this approach that you were negotiating? At a distance it seems like… well, you suffered this terrible terrorist attack in 1994, 20 years have passed. There is a tribunal here that indicted the Iranians, a member of Hezbollah, but nothing came out of that. So my question is, what were you trying to achieve and what were you trying to avoid with that negotiation with Iran?
CFK: Ok, for starters, this story does not begin with the memorandum of understanding with Iran. This story begins, first, in 1992 with the March 17 bombing of the Israeli Embassy. It will soon be 23 years. 23 years since the bombing of the Embassy of Israel without a single convict, not even one person arrested. In 1992, I was a provincial congresswoman in the Province of Santa Cruz, a far away, beloved province. Then came the attack on AMIA. It was different from the attack against the embassy, which was an attack against Israel because it was perpetrated on Israeli territory—you know how each embassy represents a portion of the respective country’s territory. Then came the 7-18 attack, the attack of July 18, 1994, which is not an attack against the Jewish community, it is an attack against Argentina because it was perpetrated on Argentine territory, and it caused the death of many people and it was made against a Jewish association of Jewish people, but the casualties were Argentine. I think there is some confusion regarding this.
We consider AMIA an attack against Argentina, which caused the death of Argentines, some of which were Jewish, some of which were not. So, yes, that was the biggest terrorist attack. In the first case, 29 people died; in the second case, 85 people. But both were very serious. Very, very serious. A bicameral commission was created to follow up on both attacks in 1996. I’ve been a member of that bicameral commission since the beginning. I was an active participant in that commission. Back then Itzhak Aviran was the Israeli ambassador to Argentina, in 1996-97-98. And each time I noticed greater anomalies in the court proceedings because, in fact, this was a follow-up commission. The Legislative cannot meddle in court proceedings. That is why the bicameral follow-up commission was created. And we monitored the investigation, and I started to see abnormalities and reported them, not publicly, but inside the commission. Why not publicly? Because we did not want a situation like that, a terrorist attack, with victims, relatives, to be part of a media circus, of political maneuvering by taking one stance or another. The truth is that all the members of that commission acted very prudently in this respect. In my last report, which I signed in total dissent… After we took a statement from the former clerk of Judge Galeano, Atty. Claudio Lifschitz, revealing how it all had been conducted, we saw many peculiarities.
I told many victim relatives “This is not going to trial,” because you can write anything on paper, but a public trial requires evidence and the right to defense. Besides, in this context there was also a presidential campaign at the time, and it all ended the way I called it in the report. In 2004, the Federal Criminal Court literally demolished the case heard by Galeano, released all suspects and today, 21 and 23 years later, we still have no convicted or arrested persons.
One thing. Judge Galeano had issued twelve arrest warrants, twelve red notices to detain 12 Iranians, former Iranian Ambassador to Argentina Heidi Solimanpur among them, who was arrested in London. He was arrested there at the behest of the Argentine judge and had to be released because, when the Argentine Judiciary forwarded the evidence, according to the English—not the Iranians or anyone else, but the English—that evidence was useless. And not only was Heidi Solimanpur released, but Argentina had to pay 25 thousand dollars or pounds—I can’t remember—because obviously you have to pay for these things. The court proceedings fell through, then new proceedings for cover-ups were commenced, a new judge took over, as well as new prosecutors, because, today, a former president, a former head of the secret services, and Federal Police commissioners are being prosecuted for cover-up. Also prosecuted for cover-up are Judge Galeano, prosecutors, clerks, it’s an outrage. A true and complete outrage. Since Nestor Kirchner came into office in 2003, the Office of the Attorney General created… that is to say, not the Executive, because here prosecutors do not report to the Executive, they report to a non-executive ministry, which appointed Atty. Alberto Nisman as prosecutor in the AMIA case in 2004, if I recall correctly. And Judge Canicoba Corral took over the case and entrusted the prosecutor with the investigation.
So the investigation started anew and five, seven, eight, I don’t remember how many arrest warrants were issued. And we undertook great efforts with Interpol, today Argentina is also a member of Interpol, Secretary of Security Berni is a member of the Board of Directors of Interpol. We handled these red notices. And, in 2007, we started to send requests to Iran. Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner, we are the first presidents of Argentina—a country that suffered two attacks which Iran was accused of perpetrating—who started to demand from the other nations that Iran cooperate judicially with Argentina. Because in Argentina it is not possible to prosecute an absent person, the accused has to be present to take their statement, that’s what the constitution says.
The problem is that, at the same time, Iran has a law that harkens back to the age of the Persian Shah—not a law of the current administration—that precludes Iranian citizens from being extradited to other countries to be judged. It is similar to, for example, a Brazilian law. If today I wanted to ask Brazil to extradite someone, they wouldn’t. So we started to ask for more and more judicial cooperation. Besides, there is a United Nations resolution, Resolution 1373, issued on September 28, 2001, on account of the 9-11 attack. That UN resolution states that countries have to sign judicial cooperation agreements to shed light on terrorist attacks, etc. When the warrants started to be sent over to Iran, Iran—besides dismissing the investigation and saying that it’s made up of lies, that it’s not true—stated that it would not cooperate because there was no bilateral agreement signed by both countries compelling them to provide judicial cooperation.
I’ll tell you a story. In 2004 or 2005, I can’t remember—since you were talking to me about Venezuela—the G-15 Summit was held in Caracas, Venezuela. We went and, at the time, the President of Iran—I can’t remember who he was—asked to meet with President Kirchner. President Kirchner replied that he would only agree to meet if AMIA was part of the agenda. Well, it fell through—there was no agenda, there was no meeting.
CFK: No, it was not Ahmadinejad. It was another person. There was another one, I can’t remember who. The one who came before Ahmadinejad, I think. Well, the point is that they wouldn’t even agree to meet because they did not accept that AMIA could be part of a bilateral agenda. Because they claimed to have nothing to do and, so, the subject would not be broached. I began to step it up in my speeches at the United Nations. You can see that. First asking for cooperation, guaranteeing that in our country there will be a fair trial, that we have safeguards, that we are prosecuting the Juntas, that we can vouch for our safeguards. Nothing. They did not reply anything. Afterwards, taking into account the Lockerbie case of Libya and the United States, we proposed that, if they did not trust Argentina, the trial should be held in a third country, in a country we could agree on, with judicial authorities that were neither Argentine nor Iranian, which was the solution reached by the United States and England after the bombing of the airplane, when Libya handed over the suspects. Plus compensation, etc. They refused to do that as well. We went on and on and on, until finally, I believe in 2012, the Foreign Minister answered that they were willing to begin conversations with Argentina to reach an agreement on the AMIA issue.
In terms of international politics and criminal law alone, this was an unprecedented success for Argentina. Because if I want to talk with you about Kennedy’s death and say, “Dexter, you have to sit and talk with me about Kennedy’s death because you are guilty of his death and of participating in the conspiracy,” you would never agree to talk with me because you would say, “What do I have to do with Kennedy’s death?” We convinced Iran to discuss AMIA when it had refused for decades. Not only did we achieve that, we also got them to sign a memorandum of understanding.
J: Why do you think they agreed to discuss the subject? Sometimes I wonder—you can’t speak for them, but, do you have any idea why?
CFK: I can’t speak for them. I think there was huge international pressure. This is on top of other things, because when you analyze AMIA or the issues in the Middle East, you can’t just look at what’s happening in Iran, you can’t just look at what’s happening in Argentina, you have to consider the context. For instance, Barack Obama, Barack Obama’s administration has been negotiating for some time now a non-proliferation agreement with Iran, together with the remaining permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. They’ve been having secret conversations since 2009, we just found out. I’d like to remind everyone that 2009 is the year Barack Obama came into office. Does this turn Barack Obama into a traitor to the United States because he wanted to negotiate a non-proliferation treaty to avert a war even worse than the current conflict in the Middle East? No. I think he was being absolutely responsible and actually taking care of not only his people, but the people of the world. Well, now we find out that Barack Obama has been negotiating since 2009. It happens to be when I was sitting on the Security council, the day before.
J: Regarding the agreement with Iran, I think critics say you no longer seek justice, that you are trying to do away with this issue because it constitutes a hindrance in Argentina’s relationship with Iran. You have heard this criticism…
CFK: Excuse me, I didn’t quite understand …
J: The criticism to the negotiations between Argentina and Iran aims at the fact that justice is not being sought any more, as was the case for so many years, but rather that there is a will to make a political deal in relation to that tragedy. People’s testimonies will be received and then we move away from this entire subject and may increase trade and be friends with Iran. That is the criticism you may have heard.
CFK: Yes, sure. I hear criticism of all sorts but in fact that does not match reality. So that someone may be convicted, and for AMIA’s crime to be punished… a crime which, let me repeat, took place 21 years ago, because I say, this did not happen 2, or 3 or 4 years ago during our time in office, this happened 21 years ago. Trade with Iran actually decreased after the Memorandum of Understanding was signed. We do not need Iranian crude oil as it is not good for our refineries. That is to say, trade is something that can be proven, as proven as what I said before. What I say is that we should not be hypocritical. The idea is to plead as a litany, every year, at the UN, not to go and say please Iran, help us. It is not a matter of making an agreement one year, we go to the UN every year, and we say the same. Every year the community gets together at the door of the new AMIA building, and 21 years have gone by and nobody has achieved anything, except for us, who managed to get this agreement which, in turn, if it hadn’t been adjudged unconstitutional by the Judiciary of Argentina, we would be in a condition to demand at the UN that Iran perform under their agreement, to perform under the agreement by the Truth Committee, which comprises 7 internationally renowned legal experts, for the Argentinean judge to go to Teheran, as that was the main goal, that Judge Canicoba Corral may hear the depositions of the Iranians in Teheran, as once the depositions of the Iranians are taken in Teheran, the proceedings may continue, people may be processed, evidence can be taken.
Now we are in the same position we were 21 years ago, without anyone convicted, anyone in prison and … well, it was also said that this was intended to drop the red notices. You may have heard Robert Noble, who up to the last year was the Chair, the Director General of Interpol, say that everything that had been said was absolutely false. The first thing we did as soon as the MOU was signed, was to send a note to Interpol saying that the red notices had to remain effective, but… Dexter, allow me, if we do not put the AMIA affair and the explosion at the Embassy in the context of the Middle East and how policy and events overlap… you see, back in 1992, at the time of the explosion at the Embassy, that was the year when Yitzhak Rabin, who was a great Israeli statesman, came, during his campaign and became the Israeli Prime Minister.
His 1992 campaign was completely focused on achieving peace with Arafat, the then PLO. You have been to Iraq, Afghanistan, you know about the Middle East issue. He based all his campaign precisely on achieving peace with Palestine, something many people did not agree with. In fact, I believe Rabin wanted in a certain manner to emulate Menachem Begin, who had managed to achieve peace with Egypt. That was the year of the explosion at the Embassy. Rabin, however, under the umbrella of protection of the United States, continued with secret conversations where Syria was a top player. Kissinger said that there could not be war in Middle East without Egypt, but there could not be peace without Syria, and Syria had a major role there and precisely in 1994, when the negotiations took place, there was the explosion of AMIA and later, almost the next year, peace was signed between Shimon Peres, Rabin, Arafat, who has been awarded the Nobel prize, who even shared a ceremony at the White House… after all this the Israeli ultra-right murdered that great statesman that was Rabin.
Then, we have to look at the things that happen in the world, not just to what happened in Argentina, Iran or the United States, but rather at how the Middle East issue… how Middle East players develop, and how today, for instance, the United States is trying to reach a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with Iran. I can tell Barack Obama: “No, Sir; you are in fact a liar; what you want is to be part of history and then agree with Iran so that Iran can have the nuclear bomb;” no. Then I believe that we should look at things the way they are… because, what has AMIA become? AMIA, has become part of a national and international chessboard. See, I was a member of the Committee and members of the Police of Buenos Aires were accused, a force quite challenged as it was considered to be involved in the attack. Why was this? Because at that time, the candidate to the President’s office was against President Duhalde, and then red herrings were planted to harm him in the election campaign. Well, all that finally fell apart in 2004, when it was found that the Police of Buenos Aires had nothing at all to do with that. Then the game was on the national chessboard. And also on the international board, as perhaps in the 90s it was not convenient to have other countries from the Middle East involved in the AMIA affair. Then I say, I say, what we did was to comply with what Argentine justice said, which requested that the Iranians be extradited, the Iranians… we went to Interpol, and got the order to issue the red notices for their capture. The Iranians don’t hand them over, they do not extradite them and we have to…
J: I see, but, do you believe that the Iranian Government has any responsibility?
CFK: According to the statements of the Argentinean Judiciary, I have to say yes. That is why, if it had been otherwise, I would not have signed the agreement. And if I did not think… if I thought that the Argentine Judiciary were not right, that would be wrongly accusing them. Anyway, we have to say something, in my country nobody is guilty until found so in a final sentence. I don’t know what this is like in your country, but obviously I think that Iran was actually involved. Or else, how could I ask for people to be extradited? I have to abide by the orders of the judge that directs that someone be extradited, being an Iranian citizen, obviously. Or else, it would almost be absurd.
J: Do you believe that the agreement negotiated and signed would lead to the Iranians’ arrest or to justice being done in relation to this subject?
CFK: It would mainly lead to the judge traveling to Teheran to take their deposition, because, such as there is a law in Teheran that prevents the extradition of Iranian people, there is a law in Argentina that prevents trial in absentia. Then we are at a deadlock where neither Iranians extradite nor the judge may take the deposition of the Iranians. This 21-year deadlock is what we wanted to break with the agreement. What happens is that in parallel there are … let’s see… we cannot be naive. You have been a correspondent in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan… we all know the ways of international politics, we know the ways of the countries’ intelligence agencies, the CIA, Mossad, intelligence agencies of Europe, all… that is, there is an international chessboard that we can’t ignore. Argentina was pushed on to the international geopolitical chessboard that is the Middle Ease issue, without really knowing how, because it is not a conflict … we became involved into a conflict because of the attacks, and what we want is to get out of this conflict because we want justice for the 85 people dead in AMIA. This is what we want. I feel I have a debt… You were asking today about state terrorism, Why would have Kirchner wanted to deal with state terrorism? Because someone had to face the family and children of the victims. And here we should not look at what the United States, Iran, the President of Argentina say, we should look at the faces of the family of the 85 dead people and for them, do everything possible to try and punish those who are guilty. And this was the goal that guided us. Now international interests get in the middle because it is convenient to have Iran seem reluctant to do another thing. That’s it…
J: Then it is basically unlikely to have someone from Iran in prison… Would that be the most logical thing to say right now?
CFK: No, not at all. If the agreement we have signed is adjudged constitutional in Argentina, we would, under UN conventions, because, don’t forget that it is a bilateral agreement within the framework of the regulation of international treaties and all… If that treaty could start operating, which has never happened, we would be in a position such that we could demand at the UN compliance with a bilateral treaty signed within the framework of international UN conventions. Within the framework of UN Resolution 1373, for instance. We would be in a position… but for that we need it to be adjudged constitutional in Argentina, so that I may demand from Iran its approval and performance.
Now, if I have hurdles here, there are obviously interests involved, which may not want, and perhaps find it more convenient, geopolitical interests, or interests with an active role in Argentina at the time of… because, I tell you, the investigation started 21 years ago and there was a trial in the middle where false evidence was produced, witness depositions were ruled out, former Presidents, former Secretaries… for instance the cover-up trial has not yet started, the AMIA case has been in court for 21 years, the cover-up trial has been in court for 15 years and there is no one imprisoned or sentenced yet, and there are no Iranians in the cover-up trial, there is a former President, there is a former Secretary of Intelligence, there are former Police Captains, there is Mr. Beraja, the former head of DAIA. The head of DAIA, of the Jewish Association, is also indicted for cover-up. 15 years, Dexter, and in those proceedings, heard in Argentina, there is no one sentenced or convicted either. It’s not that easy, is it?…
J: Nisman’s main allegation or accusation was that there was an agreement on the table and a secret deall under the table, that there was an agreement to basically take the Iranians off Interpol lists. Was this discussed, talked about at any time, or it is pure fantasy?
CFK: Eh, Dexter, you are a serious journalist, from a media company such as the New Yorker, a reputable company. An international treaty consists of the wording of the international treaty. This is like someone tells me that … the armistice after the Second World War has been signed and there is a treaty under the table that nobody knew about. It actually feels almost childish, and also, when this is said without any evidence, is a very critical matter, because it is not just the President or her Chancellor that are being accused, a Chancellor who is also Jewish, who, on top of that is Jewish and of Jewish faith and Jewish origin. This is an accusation against Argentina and a Government, the one that more economic and human resources has funneled to the investigation, the one that created the Special Unit to investigate through the Prosecutors’ Office, the one that claimed at the United Nations as it had never been done before, the one that dared accuse the Iranians of all countries in the world, actually, and when the accusation was filed, an accusation not grounded on any proof whatsoever, it was absolutely ruled out for lack of proof and foundation. Then I have to think that all this was related to positions shifted and changes I made in the Argentine intelligence services in December, which had had an active participation in the AMIA investigation between the year of the attack and the present.
J: Then there is no secret deal…
CFK: But… what would be the deal, then? Let’s see… What would it be? Let me ask, what would it be?
CFK: How would it be implemented? First, what would the secret agreement be? First question, no one can answer. How could it be secret when the eyes of the world, the cameras of the world, you yourself, a journalist, and together with you thousands and millions of journalists from all the countries in the world, are looking at it? If tomorrow Obama reaches an agreement with Iran about non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, I can say “no, for sure there is a secret agreement under the table that has been signed, which will allow them to build the atomic bomb so that they can attack Israel or the Middle East.” It is not serious in terms of international politics on treaties. In secret agreements no one signs nothing publicly, secret things are never known. The things Mossad does are not known by anyone; the things CIA does are not known by anyone; these are secret things; the things we heads of State sign in a treaty, in an agreement, may never be secret, they are public, they are recorded in the United Nations, they are in sight for anyone to see, these may be complied with or not, but these are two separate stories, there can’t be a secret agreement.
J: You never had the idea of taking the names of the Iranians out of Interpol’s lists, correct?
CFK: How would we if we couldn’t? That would be impossible. It is as if I said, I am going to get Dexter out of the New Yorker. Only the New Yorker director may terminate him, if he is on the New Yorker’s payroll. Now, the red notices can only be dealt with by the judge that hears the case. Only Judge Canicoba Corral, not even the prosecutor, not even the prosecutor, only the judge that hears the case, because the detention orders are only signed by the judge that hears the case. Only judge ordered detentions. And in my country, and in Interpol, it is very clearly established, and Ronald Noble said it, a judge orders a red notice, a detention order, and it is accepted by the Interpol governing body, Interpol issues the order and this order can only be dropped by the judge that hears the case. I could have signed, not in secret, but rather in public, with the Iranians, here in front of everybody, in 60 Minutes, for the New York Times, signed personally that I am going to drop the red notices, and it has no value; it has no value as Interpol may only receive that detention order from the judges and may only receive requests to drop orders by the same judge that ordered the detention. Is that clear?
J: One more thing about the treaty with Iran before asking about Nisman. When you read the 287-page Nisman report, very long, where all this is mentioned…
CFK: Very long and very bad. “Very, very bad, very bad.”
J: He was listening to what the agent said over the telephones; there are transcriptions of the phone tapping in the report, and there are people holding causal conversations, Argentine people who were having these conversations and it is very hard to understand what they are talking about, but there are some things that are very strange and uncommon, and I ask myself, What do you think they are talking about? They were saying, for instance, the Jew messed up, to put it more mildly, and that is a clear reference to the Chancellor. What is that reference about? And there is also something else in these strange conversations; there are people from your Government, that seem to belong to this Government and seem to be involved, such as Luis D’Elía, and I think that he worked for your husband. Please tell me what you think they were referring to …
CFK: First, in order to find out that the individual that you are talking about, Luis D’Elía, is Iran’s advocate, you do not need to tap phones or anything, you just need to turn on the radio or television and see him, the things he says. He said that Iranians were not involved. They said that one time, when he vouched for Iran, it was Doctor Kirchner who threw him out of the Government; that is, it was Kirchner the one who threw him out of the Government. Now talking about the phone taps, completely dismissed by the judge that hears the case himself, who said that phone taps prove nothing, these are also people I don’t personally know, this Mr. Khalil that appears in the taps is more closely related to the Government of the City [of Buenos Aires]; his whole family is on the payroll of the City Government. The other gentleman whose last name I don’t even remember was allegedly a member of the intelligence agency, and he does not exist, there is no link, that is, phone taps are actually unintelligible; they do not prove absolutely anything; they are only conversations between third or fourth, or fifth category characters, they have absolutely nothing to do; no one from the Government appears in the phone taps, talking in the taps, or is mentioned in the taps. Even more, I think that the phone taps were intentionally put together; don’t you think it is strange, and you must have a lot of experience, that just one phone is tapped rather than tapping the telephones of the other people as well? If, for instance, someone is talking about such a thing, they do not tap… these people were not checked for their financial ties either.
What is the first thing an investigator in international terrorism does? Check for financial connections, companies. Today, one of the main problems of the world is how to detect global terrorism, drug trafficking or organized crime funding networks. It actually looked very much alike. I was quite involved in the first AMIA trial, the trial that was dismissed, the trial where taps were made, the trial where it was said Rivelli… taps of what the other one said; it was too close, in my view, to what was said in the first AMIA case, which was then dismissed. But the report itself, the report itself, I am convinced that it was not written by Nisman, the prosecutor; when you read that document… sure… it is an almost journalistic approach. It is not legally founded; it is like written by somebody else, with a journalistic dissemination approach, rather than with a legal approach. But the most important thing taken … excuse me… Doctor Rafecas’ sentence, it is that in parallel to this, two presentations are found in Nisman’s safe, which are actually legally grounded, which seem to be written by a prosecutor, which indicate absolutely the opposite of what the prosecutor says in the report, and they were dated at the same time, December 2014 and January 2015. Look, I don’t want to become a prosecutor or an expert in criminology, that should be said by judges, common sense… I have had all this translated into English so that the whole world may access this documentation.
But truly, thinking that this President who has been advocating for the Amia case since year 1996, I have been fighting all those who were then judges, I have been putting forward human and technical resources for the investigation; we are the only ones who went to the United Nations to accuse the Islamic Republic of Iran; we are the only ones the Islamic Republic of Iran acknowledges, acknowledges it has to discuss and argue about the AMIA issue with, because you go like a … because for Iran, it would have been to continue as up till now if in fact… we asked the United States to also include the AMIA issue in the nuclear negotiations, and we were told that they couldn’t because it was an absolutely different subject. We even asked them to include them in the nuclear negotiations. Then, I think that things have to be based on some logic; that can’t be that far-fetched. And the truth is that Nisman’s report has more to do, I believe, with shifted positions at the Office of the Secretary of Intelligence at the end of December rather than with anything else. Because he had in his safe a presentation to the UN that said precisely the opposite to what he said when he reported this event. He suddenly came back from his trip, filed a report…
J: When you say that it said the opposite, could you describe what you mean by that?
CFK: Of course, of course. It was a document submitted to the United Nations, one dated December 2014 and another one January 2015, concurrently with the accusation in which he requested me, in my capacity as President of Argentina, to appear before the United Nations Council by virtue of a certain regulation he invokes, so that he can request there the extradition of the Iranian citizens and he transcribes, in that document, every single address I gave, Mr. Kirchner [gave], even my last speech, the one from 2014, he transcribed that one too and he acknowledges everything the Government has done and he even makes a critical remark on the Memorandum of Understanding, but he says the following phrase: «in reality, that Memorandum of Understanding had the same and only goal, the usual goal, to make the Iranian [defendants] to be deposed at last so that a trial can commence.» This was written, signed and dated by Nisman, he left it signed before leaving, dated December 2014 and January 2015, so much so that he says that more than seven years ago, he says in his document that the red notices were issued more than seven years ago, to no avail so far. My intuition is that he finished writing it that very December because…Do you know when the red notices were issued? In November, 2007, and he says it’s been over seven years since these red notices were issued and we have nothing yet, and he signs one document in December 2014 in case the Memorandum of Understanding wasn’t passed by Iran, and he left the other document dated January 2015, where he reproduces former President Kirchner’s policy, as well as mine, to the point of…pronouncing each and every one of my speeches when I complain to Iran about the Lockheed case. He even says that he could have prosecuted…
J: Why did he take one of the documents from the safe and the other two…?
CFK: He didn’t take any of them. No, no, no. Both documents were in the safe. He didn’t take any of them. He came back, he filed that report, anybody can tell you, any lawyer, any jurist, [the complaint] was not written by a lawyer, it was not written by a jurist. He was back on the 12th and he filed the report on the 14th, and the other two documents were delivered by the secretary to Judge Rafecas. I wasn’t aware, I learnt about those two documents he kept in the safe when I could read Judge Rafecas’ ruling on the Internet. Judge Rafecas argues in his sentence: «if there was any doubt regarding the inexistence of the offence, this is lapidary,» as simple as this, he uses the same term or a similar one. These two documents were signed by Nisman himself, with his handwritten signature, and in the wording you can recognize the typical style of a prosecutor, or a lawyer. So I think that, at this point, to keep on stalling this is to keep on stalling what we want to do, which is to urge the Islamic Republic of Iran – if the agreement is decreed constitutional – so that finally in Teheran – the judge is willing to travel to Teheran – statements can be taken from the detainees.
Now, I also believe that there is a significant geopolitical bias in this matter. There is, you cannot ignore what happened a few days ago in the United States, where the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under unprecedented circumstances, eh unprecedented, I think I never witnessed something like this, an unprecedented challenge to President Barack Obama, he delivers a speech against the President of the United States in front of the very Congress. There is a letter from more than 47 Tea Party congressmen, Republican congressmen, telling the Iranian that they couldn’t care less about anything signed by Obama, that whatever Obama signs the following administration will throw away. What’s happening is an international scandal, and it is a scandal that Netanyahu – two weeks before the elections – two weeks before the elections in Israel, which will take place on the 17th, gives a speech in the United States – a speech which could not be broadcast in Israel because it was forbidden due to the ban before the elections; so don’t you find it too good to be true, that submission by the prosecutor Nisman, all of a sudden, next Netanyahu challenging President Obama to deter the agreement with Iran on the issue with Iran, come on, I don’t believe in witches, but they surely exist.
J: What do you think happened to Nisman when he died? Firstly, the initial reaction was that it was likely that he committed suicide, and a few days later…
[the President mentions a problem with the simultaneous translation equipment and then she speaks]
CFK: There is something I wanted to tell you. Besides, Netanyahu’s speech… Something I forgot to tell you about Netanyahu’s speech. Netanyahu’s speech before the United States Congress mentions, as one of the reasons why the United States shouldn’t reach any agreement with Iran, that the United States and its allies are constantly attacked by Iran, and he points out two specific attacks: the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, in 1992, and the terrorist attack to the AMIA community center in Buenos Aires. These two issues were mentioned by Netanyahu as one of the reasons, in his address before the US Congress. I do not believe in chance, let alone in international politics. Do you believe in chance in the Middle East?
J: Help me figure this out: why did Netanyahu do it?
CFK: I’m not sure I can help you figure out Netanyahu (laughter), Netanyahu is very complicated. I think that, with Netanyahu, I witnessed mass demonstrations in Israel. And, take a look at this, I just got it, an article that was published, you’ll get to see it later. This is an article published by an Argentine Jewish journalist who lives in New York, Graciela Mochkofsky, an Argentine journalist who wrote an acclaimed biography of Jacobo Timerman, father of the incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs. She is currently a fellow in the Prince Foundation at the Center for Jewish History in New York. So, I think it would be interesting if you read it, Why Alberto Nisman Is No Hero for Argentina — or the Jews, it presents a series of critical comments, I started reading it but couldn’t finish it because you came, but I will finish it, it’s really impressive. And I can assure you that Graciela Mochkofsky, when living in Argentina, was not exactly a supporter of this Administration; on the contrary, she was a journalist who was very critical of our Administration. I believe that, really, Netanyahu’s speech was openly defiant to President Barack Obama, but it was mainly targeted to Israel’s domestic policy. I witnessed the demonstrations in Israel…and this letter, this article did not appear in an Argentine newspaper, this article was published by the Haaretz, Israel’s Haaretz. I mean, I think there is a very heated domestic situation in Israel, because the Labor Party is very strong, because…I mean, both the Israeli left wing and the Israeli right wing are mad at Netanyahu. The left wing says [Netanyahu] is pushing the country to a point of no return, because they’re fighting their main ally and Israel’s greatest safeguard, which is the United States’ veto in the Security Council, in case of sanction. That is what the so-to-speak Progressivism movement argues, or what we might call the Israeli Labor Party. And the right wing, much tougher and much more pragmatic than the left, claims: «how come that Netanyahu expects to convince us that he’ll stop Iran when he couldn’t stop Hamas, which is so much smaller and much less powerful.» I mean, I think that everything that is going on in the Middle East has to do to a large extent with domestic policy, and it is shown as collateral damage. Do you know what I feel as President of Argentina – forget the President, what I feel as an Argentine citizen? I feel that Argentina, I feel the 85 relatives…the 85 deceased in the AMIA attack or the 29 deceased in the Israel Embassy bombing and their families, we are like collateral damage. Collateral damage of a war that is not ours, a war that is waged in other areas, and with any means, where anything goes. Where anything goes, where it is legitimate to launch a missile targeting a given area to kill some Jihadist leader, regardless that together with that Jihadist leader 45 civilians, or 45 children may be killed, where it is legitimate to go to the United States to make a case against the President of that country, voted democratically by the American people and who is entitled to make [his] decisions on foreign policy. So, if we take a look at that world, things shall become clearer, because if we narrow our view to this pair of spectacles, or to this glass, without looking at everybody in this room, we won’t understand why this pair of spectacles is here and why this glass with lipstick on it is here. We must realize that there is a bunch of people listening to us, taping, staring [at us], that you came here to interview me and that is why my spectacles are here, this glass is here, and this newspaper article by this journalist is here. I think this is what we must take into consideration, and this is what is neglected many times, in a country, many times… not only in Argentina, but what cannot be faced in the United States, what cannot be faced in Israel…Or, you face it, and then you take a stance.
That’s why I say that it is mandatory for any leadership, specially the leadership that runs a country: Barack Obama, who leads the United States but also – and this is something we cannot overlook, his is the most powerful country in the world – shares the responsibility for ensuring world peace and security. This issue is not only of interest for the United States, because the United States shall not enjoy security if there is no peace in the world. When was the security of the United States breached for the first time? When the worst attack ever happened, the attack to the Twin Towers. And why? Because there were other regions that were not at peace. There was plenty of security, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, all the agencies, all the microphones, all the weapons, and still two of their towers were brought down. So, I think the American people must understand that their security is not a domestic issue within the United States, the security of the United States relies on world security and any task geared toward [this] such as the one he is…I warn you, I am not an advocate of Barack Obama’s, any task such as the one Barack Obama is in charge of, defusing conflicts, defusing conflict and confrontation fronts, it’s not only that he wants to reach an agreement with the Iranian, it’s because he truly wants to ensure the security of the United States citizens. At least I see it that way and I understand his government under that light. There is no other possibility. Now, I’m aware that journalists must always find something a little bit more dramatic, more…but sometimes things actually are what they look like. This is the case. And the Memorandum of Understanding is what it is: a memorandum of understanding so that the Iranian defendants testify before the competent judge and the case can be advanced.
The alternative is 21 years of impunity. Now, if they want 21 more years of impunity, let them keep doing what they are doing. My term ends on December 10th. Surely one of my successors shall have enough intelligence and clarity to achieve, maybe, what I couldn’t. I wil support them. But bringing a casus belli before the United Nations Security Council is not the way, because the intention was to create a casus belli. And it wasn’t going to happen, either. Dexter, you are aware of how the United Nations Security Council works: a veto from China or a veto from Russia. But, let’s assume, as I said before the Legislative Assembly on March 1st, let’s assume that the 15 members of the Security Council, the five permanent and the ten non-permanent members, say «Yes, it’s all right,» and they force, they request Iran to extradite the Iranian [defendants]. Who is going to go get them? Who is going to go get them and how are they going to do that? Shall we declare a casus belli, a war? So, I think we have to be smart about this, and I think that what we have to [do] is stay away from the intelligence and counterintelligence struggle that is going on in the Middle East today, in the United States, in Iran, and in our country. I don’t want the 40 million Argentine citizens to suffer any more collateral damage. We had too much of that already.
J: Let’s see if we can discuss Nisman a little while. When his death was reported your first reaction was «he probably committed suicide» and, a few days later, you suggested that…
J: …he was assassinated probably by someone…
CFK: No. No, no, no. No.
J: from the intelligence services…
CFK: No. No, no, no. Dexter, bad information, bad information, bad information, bad information. This is my first…the transcription is incorrect, as is often the case with the Argentine press, they misreport things so that you will publish anything. This is my letter, in English, posted in the [social] networks. What does it say? Ok, you can keep it, take it. It says, question mark, «I never believed it.» And I have the other one. This was written when the complaint came out, when I was able to read the complaint, because the complaint was published after the prosecutor’s death, and that’s when things make a little more sense. Both. I never changed my mind. I don’t change my mind easily, but that doesn’t imply, beware, that doesn’t imply intelligence…
J: It is a very complicated case.
CFK: …that doesn’t imply intelligence. You have to change your mind when you are proven wrong. If I fail to realize that I’m wrong I won’t change my mind. I think it is obvious. This is a complicated case if you look at it…No, I think that if you look at it from a geopolitical standpoint, from the point of view of what is happening in the Middle East, and if you look at it after listening to Netanyahu, and if you look at it after learning who were the prosecutor’s main information sources, something we learnt from the judge. I’d like to…It’d be very interesting if, besides interviewing me, you interviewed judge Canicoba Corral, the judge in charge of the case, because he’s the one in a position to speak more authoritatively about the case. Judge Canicoba Corral had delegated the investigation upon prosecutor Nisman and he was very critical of that investigation. And I don’t want…
J: The reason why I ask this [is] because in the surveys, although they may be not fair, many Argentines have expressed that you could be involved in Nisman’s death. Therefore, although you have no evidence, what do you think really happened? The simple narrative says that [Nisman] was investigating your Administration and he ended up dead. That is the narrative in very simple terms, which, without any further details, seems suspicious. If a person doesn’t analyze everything in detail and doesn’t speak to you, as we are doing now, they may come to that conclusion. Tell me what you think happened to Nisman, or not.
CFK: I don’t believe, first of all, I don’t believe in surveys when nobody knows who the responders are and where they were published. If I am to analyze street surveys, on March 1st there was a mass demonstration that joined me in my congressional inauguration address. Honestly, I’ve heard that Iranian agents were involved, I’ve heard that it was a crime of passion, but I have not heard anybody tell me, anybody who could conceive I was really involved in this matter. I really think it is a biased view, without any real grounds whatsoever. For a very simple reason, and since we are in «Sherlock Holmes mode,» let’s ask a question like Sherlock Holmes would. Tell me: who would be the most negatively affected by the death of prosecutor Nisman after he accused the President, her Minister of Foreign Affairs, a national Congressman, of high treason and conspiracy with the Iranian? Who would be the most negatively affected by prosecutor Nisman’s death? You answer that, Sherlock Holmes.
J: You tell me.
CFK: Who, who? You are a smart man.
J: I think I heard that it would be your Administration.
CFK: Exactly. Well, this is always one of the key elements in… So, who would benefit [from this]?
J: I think one of the things that you mentioned is that – and you raised suspicions about the SIDE, an autonomous, out-of-control agency – and you raised certain suspicions that somebody from [that agency] might be involved. I am searching for the truth.
CFK: [Somebody from] there and from the outside as well. [Somebody from] there and from the outside as well, because, at the end of the day, this is an intelligence agency with multiple connections, as was admitted by international intelligence agencies. So this isn’t, let’s say, a conspiratorial view, it simply is a view of reality. Besides you know that this is typical of almost every intelligence agency in the world. There is an «autonomization,» an autonomy from the political power, whether it’s the United States, Israel, or any other. That is why we decided to make changes, and that is why we undertook a deep reform of the intelligence bodies, by means of a bill that we submitted to the Congress which takes away wiretapping privileges from the Executive Power. Because, in reality, the Secretariat of Intelligence reports directly to the President, therefore wiretapping depends directly on President. What did we do? We removed ourselves from this and handed it to the General Attorney’s Office, which is a body independent of the Executive Power, independent of the Legislative Power or of the Judicial Power, so now the General Attorney’s Office, a constitutional body, is responsible for judicial wiretapping. And [it is] a very deep reform, and now intelligence officers cannot mingle with judges anymore; they can request cooperation through the [judge’s] secretary and that’s about it.
We have conducted a deep reform, which was a debt the Democracy had. I must say this isn’t…because the inevitable question now is: Why didn’t you do it before? Well, yes, we could have nationalized YPF before, we could have done the private pension funds thing before, but everything has its right time in history. The issue of the intelligence service reform was a debt of democracy since 1983, and I took charge of it, as I did with many other things. And I believe we have made very good progress in this area, something that future administrations will thank me for. We cannot get entangled anymore with the «intelligence,» between inverted commas, because actually instead of intelligence it was about diversion operations, evidence-planting operations, case misleading operations, false accusations …well, the AMIA case is proof of how the intelligence agency and the Argentine justice conducted themselves. The evidence exists, 21 years, impunity, a failed trial, former presidents processed for cover-up more than 15 years ago, and everything remains the same. Well, I think we should place or focus the journalists’ camera, and specially their wit, on other places as well, don’t you think?
J: I think we are running out of time, but what is your evaluation of what happened to Mr. Nisman, based on the evidence available, what do you think might have happened?
CFK: I don’t have any evidence because I’m not involved in the case. I am neither a prosecutor nor a judge. Please, read the letter, I make an assessment that is political in nature, because I think there was a big political operation against the government. So, it’s the prosecutor’s office that is in charge of evaluating evidence and cases. I invite you to speak to judge Canicoba Corral about the AMIA case, and to speak to prosecutor Fein or to the case judge about the Nisman case. The political assessment that concluded it was a big political operation against the government, with nation-wide implications and also a global impact on the current situation in the Middle East, in the United States and elsewhere, I suggest you read my second letter. And if that is not enough, the version of my address to the Congress on March 1st, where I explained not only to a journalist but also to 40 million Argentines what this President thinks that happened in that case.
J: Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. It was fascinating.
CFK: You’re welcome. Thank you very much. Thanks to you.