(JTA) — Jewish groups mourned the death of Nestor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina.
Kirchner, the president from 2003 to 2007, who was succeeded by his wife, current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, died Wednesday morning at a hospital near his home after suffering a heart attack. He was 60.
"Together with the people of Argentina, we are profoundly saddened by the tragic loss of President Kirchner," said American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris. "We extend our deepest condolences to his widow, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and to the nation he loved so profoundly. For AJC, we always valued his leadership and dedication. He was a good friend of our organization and of the Jewish people."
Harris praised Kirchner’s work combating anti-Semitism in Argentina and furthering the investigation into the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center building in Buenos Aires. The 1994 attack killed 85 and wounded hundreds.
The case still has not been brought to justice.
The Wiesenthal Center’s Latin America Office in its statement noted that Kirchner was the first Argentine president to denounce Iran’s complicity in the attack.
In a meeting soon after he took office, the statement recalled, Kirchner told Wiesenthal Center Latin America leaders that "the AMIA bombing was our 9/11."
Guillermo Borger, the president of the AMIA Jewish umbrella organization, called Kirchner "A person with high moral and human values that will be missed." Borger also said that as president, Kirchner "demonstrated a strong commitment to the Jewish community, and this meant and means a lot to us."
Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Council of World Jewry, wrote in a letter to President Kirchner that with the death of her husband, "the entire Jewish people have lost a true friend and champion. The former President stood for justice and principle, as you have also done, drawing world attention to Iran as sponsor of the devastating AMIA bombing. He reached out to Argentine Jewry and on behalf of other Jewish communities in the region, including in Venezuela. Relations with the State of Israel have also continued to flourish."
In a statement, B’nai B’rith said that "Nestor Kirchner was an impressive leader of the Argentine people and B’nai B’rith was fortunate to have had many positive encounters with him."
The organization’s president, Dennis Glick, and executive vice president, Daniel Mariaschin, in a letter to President Kirchner said her husband’s death was a loss for Argentina and the entire region.
Nestor Kirchner had heart surgery twice this year, but was expected to run again for president in next year’s election. Christina Kirchner is ineligible to run for re-election because of successive term limits.