BUENOS AIRES (Jul. 18)
The first speech at the 10th annual commemoration of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center here was the most emotional. On Sunday, the journalist Alfredo Leuco recalled the lives of Sebastian Barreiro, 5, and Faiwel Dyjament, 73, the youngest and oldest victims among the 85 who died in the still-unsolved July 18, 1994, bombing.
Barreiro was a Catholic boy walking outside the building with his mother. He was a fan of the Ninja Turtles.
Dyjament, a Jew, was an unemployed tailor. That fateful morning, he had arrived early at the AMIA Employment Service to search for a job.
The commemoration followed a pattern that was no less moving for its familiarity.
At 9.53 a.m., a siren sounded. On Pasteur Street, in front of the AMIA building, several hundred people broke into tears.
Then people held hands as an estimated 7,000 attendees stood in silence as the names of the victims were read, and a candle was lit for each.!
Politicians, including Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, attended the event, which was organized by AMIA, the DAIA umbrella group and the largest group for victims’ relatives, Familiares de la Victimas.
Jewish groups, both in Argentina and abroad, have long been critical of what they see as foot-dragging in the pace of the investigation.
A trial against several Argentines suspected of involvement in the attack, which also wounded 300, has been under way for several years, but no one has been convicted.
A 2002 report in The New York Times accused Argentina’s former president Carlos Menem of covering up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing in exchange for a $10 million bribe. Menem has denied the charges.
Last year, the judge in the case, Juan Jose Galeano, was dismissed on suspicion that he may have paid a bribe to one of the witnesses in the case.
At Sunday’s ceremony, during which statements of solidarity from Jewish communities around the world wer! e read, AMIA President Abraham Kaul placed his faith in Kirchner.
“With you, Mr. President, we lit a small flame of hope. Do not let us down,” said Kaul, looking at Kirchner, who was standing nearby.
Marina Degtiar, the sister of Cristian Degtiar, who was 21 when he died in the bombing, spoke for the victims’ families.
Degtiar blamed Menem’s government and the police and intelligence services for the lack of progress in the case.
“How could I explain to my 4-year-old daughter that her uncle was killed by a bomb? We are like this: destroyed, split into pieces, isolated, disorientated,” she said to an approving crowd.
The 22-person strong delegation from the American Jewish Committee members listened, mainly in silence.
“We identify strongly and stand with the community. We are troubled by the 10 years of mismanagement of the investigation,” said David Harris, the AJCommittee’s executive director.
The group was expected to meet with the president on Monday.
“We want to keep the pressure” on Kirchner, “in a polite wa! y,” said Robert Goodkind, chairman of the AJCommittee’s Board of Governors.
The Israeli ambassador in Argentina, Benjamin Oron, also attended the ceremony, which was translated into sign language.
Another Argentine who attended the ceremony was Marcelo Czyzewski, whose brother, Paola, was a law student who died in the bombing.
When this reporter asked Czyzewski how old he was, he was momentarily confused. “Thirty-one,” he answered before correcting his mistake: “No, I am 33. Paola would have been 31.”
Then Czyzewski fell silent.