WASHINGTON (Oct. 5)
Jose Ber Gelbard, who emigrated to Argentina from Poland when he was nine years old and became a Minister of Economy after a successful industrial career, died yesterday at George Washington University Hospital after a heart attack. He was 60 years old. Friends said that anti-Semitism in Argentina that reached out to family members there contributed to his ailment.
When the military seized power in Argentina in March, 1976, Gelbard was accused of misuse of public funds while serving under President Juan Peron and his widow Isabel. Announcing that Gelbard’s citizenship was revoked, the military government sought to extradite him from the United States where he was visiting when the decree was issued. No action ever was taken on the request by the U.S. The 1972 Argentine-American extradition treaty allows the U.S. to determine whether charges are politically motivated.
Detractors in Argentina charged Gelbard was bribed when Argentina chose Canada to supply nuclear reactors. Gelbard denied any involvement. Intensive investigation failed to connect him with the charge. He also was accused of complicity with Argentine financier David Graiver, whose American Bank and Trust Company collapsed and caused considerable losses to Argentines. Graiver apparently died in a Mexican air crash last year.
The investigation in the Graiver case has involved many Argentine Jews and has been used to stir up anti-Semitic feelings by some elements in and outside the Argentine government. Gelbard in recent months had been devoting most of his time to preparations for a conference in Washington of Latin American leaders to discuss human rights and democracy in Latin America.