As Argentina’s Jews mark the ninth anniversary of a deadly car bombing of the Israeli Embassy here, the community still lives with the frustration that those responsible for the attack have gone unpunished.
The March 17, 1992, bombing killed 29 and wounded more than 200, but Argentina’s inquiry into the attack still has failed to produce suspects.
Many of the community’s fears and wounds remain the same as at last year’s anniversary, but this year’s somber commemoration was different in at least one respect: The honeymoon between the Jewish community and the government of President Fernando de la Rua is over.
“We don’t want to beg for justice, we demand it,” said Carlos Susevich, whose daughter died in the bombing. “We want the same fervor used in political speeches and campaign promises to be used to get results in the investigation.”
A year ago, the newly elected de la Rua and his entire Cabinet attended a public ceremony inaugurating a public square where the embassy once stood.
The Jewish community cheered him as a welcome change from the previous government.
This year, however, the only government official to attend the commemoration was the deputy justice minister.
De la Rua was busy announcing austerity measures to deal with the nation’s severe financial crisis.
Also attending Saturday’s commemoration was Israeli Ambassador Benjamin Oron, who took up the post last September.
His predecessor, Ambassador Itzhak Aviran, was among the harshest critics of Argentina’s failure to find those responsible for either the 1992 embassy bombing or the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’ AMIA Jewish center – an attack that killed 86 people and wounded about 300.
Jewish leaders here and abroad have blamed Argentina’s inability to find the culprits on incompetence, corruption and anti-Semitism among security and government officials.
At Saturday’s ceremony, Oron read a message from Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres urging the government to “redouble efforts to find those responsible for the attack and bring them to justice.”
In an interview with JTA, Oron said he still has hope in Argentina’s judicial system.
“We cannot give up. We must continue with the investigation and exhaust all channels,” he said.
“After nine years, there are some preliminary conclusions, but no complete results,” Oron said. “Nobody is under arrest, nobody is being tried. We are very frustrated.”
But he praised the government’s political will to continue with the investigation.
“This was the biggest attack against Israel abroad, and our expectation is to bring the people responsible to justice,” he said.
In 1998, Argentina’s Supreme Court, which is overseeing the investigation of the embassy bombing, said the attack may have been the work of Islamic Jihad terrorists headquartered in the Middle East.
But the court was never able to identify local contacts who helped the terrorists plant the bomb.
The bombing of the AMIA center two years later underscored Argentine Jewish institutions’ vulnerability to attack.
Fear of another terrorist attack, especially as Israeli-Palestinian violence continues, haunts the community.
As Oron said at Saturday’s commemoration, “Fear is the biggest success for terrorists.”