BUENOS AIRES (Jun. 24)
An Argentine magazine has reported that Rodolfo Barra, the country’s minister of justice, was a member of an anti-Semitic extremist group known for violence.
The revelation this week by Noticias was based on a black and white photograph showing a group of teen-agers around a table with their right arms held out in a Nazi-style salute.
The photo shows a young Barra standing in the middle of the group with his arm held high and stiff.
According to Noticias, the photo dates back to 1962, when Barra, a 14-year-old high school student, was a member of the right-wing Nationalist Union of Students, a group affiliated with the extremist organization Tacuara.
Tacuara was held responsible for hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents in the 1950s and 1960s, including the murder of Jewish lawyer Raul Alterman, several episodes of vandalism against synagogues and a racist riot in this city’s Jewish neighborhood.
As justice minister, Barra has been directly responsible for the investigation of the unsolved bombings in Buenos Aires of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and of the Jewish community headquarters in 1994.
Barra reportedly issued a statement Monday denying that he was ever a member of a Nazi organization and that he was not among the group in the published photo.
“I was never a member of any organization which — as far as I could tell with a 14-year-old’s experience and knowledge — was Nazi,” Barra reportedly said.
Argentine Jewish officials expressed concern over the minister’s reported past affiliation. But they were reluctant to go public with their concerns.
However, the Noticias article quoted Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, as saying, “If the Argentine minister of justice was involved with a Nazi organization, we shall have serious doubts about the real compromise of Argentine officials in solving the bloody bombings in Buenos Aires.”