BUENOS AIRES (Jul. 29)
In a discreet ceremony, President Carlos Menem presented Argentine Jewish officials with a copy of a decree that calls for the payment of $12 million in reparations for the bombing two years ago of the Jewish community’s headquarters here.
The decree issued this week orders the federal government to pay the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, also known as AMIA, the reparations in 12 monthly installments starting in January.
The July 18, 1994, bombing, which left 86 dead and more than 300 wounded, remains unsolved.
Of the total to be paid to the community, $1 million is for the opening of a Holocaust museum at a building the government donated last year to the Argentine Jewish community.
AMIA President Oscar Hansman, Chief Rabbi Ben Hamu, Menem, members of his Cabinet and other Argentine Jewish officials attended the ceremony.
Conspicuously absent, however, was Ruben Beraja, the president of the Argentine Jewish umbrella organization DAIA.
Beraja had previously said Argentine Jews should not accept reparations.
This week, DAIA issued a terse statement that said, “The institution did not attend the ceremony, nor named a representative to attend to it officially.”
Hansman said after the ceremony that the money “was granted to cover the extraordinary material cost of upgrading security and giving special care to victims of the bombing.”
He added that the funds would not be used to reconstruct the building leveled by the bombing because “our institution already has funds to do that.”
Meanwhile, the Argentine Chamber of Deputies formed a commission to investigate the AMIA bombing.
The five-member parliamentary commission has a mandate “to closely follow the investigation being carried out by the police and other security forces.”
The long delay in the formation of the commission has been harshly criticized by the local press and the Jewish community.
The 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires also remains unsolved.
In another development, the governor of the Buenos Aires province has submitted to the local legislature a bill that would in effect enable the government to summarily transfer, demote or dismiss any member of the provincial police force.
The province, the largest in Argentina, has a force of 47,000 police.
If the measure is passed, Gov. Eduardo Duhalde reportedly plans to dismiss a sizable part of the police force and hire replacements.
Duhalde decided on the move after 18 Buenos Aires police officers were arrested July 12 in connection with the AMIA blast.
Jewish officials here and abroad have cited incompetence, corruption and anti- Semitism among security and government officials as causes for the Argentine government’s inability to solve the case.
Duhalde said this week, “Every policeman suspected of corruption or involvement in crime will be summarily dismissed.”
Recently, a rash of violent incidents involving police have resulted in dozens of indictments.
A number of police were arrested on murder charges and on charges of opening fire on unarmed civilians.
Last week, 500 police were suspended after flunking a drug test.
The investigation of the AMIA case exposed an extensive ring of police officials allegedly involved in the sale of stolen cars, explosives and weapons.
Last Friday, attorneys representing the victims of the AMIA bombing filed charges against three high-ranking police officers under arrest.
The lawyers charged the police with knowingly selling the van used in the AMIA car-bombing and with preparing the van for that purpose.