Jewish Population in Argentina Reported Tense; Arrests Evoke Fear

Jewish leaders in Buenos Aires sought today to calm fears among Argentina’s 500, 000 Jews evoked by arrests of six directors of a Jewish led credit union cooperative and a number of Jewish shopkeepers in Buenos Aires, according to reports reaching here from the Argentine capital. The police actions followed the military coup last Tuesday against President Arturo Illia.

Jewish spokesmen in Buenos Aires noted that three of the six arrested directors of the Institute for the Mobilization of Cooperative Funds were Christians. Some Jewish observers said that banking and other commercial foes of the cooperatives had encouraged anti-Semitic activities as a weapon against the credit union in the past.

The shopkeepers were arrested Friday in a largely Jewish shopping arcade in Buenos Aires. All of those detained were being held incommunicado in police headquarters in the capital and no formal charges have been filed.

Rumors of the arrest of the cooperative union directors spread in Buenos Aires Thursday but were denied by police. Yesterday, police officials said they thought the directors were imprisoned for allegedly shipping ” $50, 000, 000 out of the country during the bank holiday last Tuesday and Wednesday,” Spokesmen for the cooperative scoffed at the report, asserting that no credit union system had so much liquidity or foreign exchange.

The arrests were disclosed in advertisements by the credit union in Argentine newspapers which declared that the directors had been detained “without reason or explanation” and urged “not only the immediate release of those detained but official recognition of the important social and economic good performed by our groups. “

The cooperatives were formed more than 60 years ago by Jewish farmers and cattlemen of modest means to offer low-interest loans which the large banks would not provide. The institutions expanded through the years and an increasing number of non-Jews have become active in them.

Police, discussing the arrests of the shopkeepers, claimed contraband textiles had been found in the small shops, but the Jewish shopkeepers pointed out that the type of contraband foreign goods bought by wealthy Argentines was too expensive for the shoppers coming to the small Jewish stores which were raided.

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