The president-elect of Argentina, the far-right Javier Milei, appointed Rodolfo Barra, a former Minister of Justice forced to resign in 1996 due to his past in pro-Nazi organizations, as the future head of the State’s Attorneys this Friday. The appointment, which will take effect on December 10, generated rejection from the Jewish community in Argentina, the largest in Latin America.
Barra, 75 years old, was in the 1990s one of the most powerful men in the government of Peronist Carlos Menem (1989-1999). After a stint in the Supreme Court, he left his position to take office as Minister of Justice in 1994. Two years later, a Peronist investigation revealed that he had joined the Tacuara organization, with Nazi and ultranationalist tendencies. Noticias magazine published his photo giving the Nazi salute when he was only 13 years old. The newspaper Página 12 revealed days later that he had been detained for a tar attack on a synagogue. Barra resigned on the eve of a large protest demonstration called by the Jewish community in front of the Casa Rosada. The terrorist attacks against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and against the Amia Jewish mutual fund in 1994, which left 85 dead, were still fresh.
At that time, Barra sent a letter to the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations (Daia). “They took advantage of youthful idealism to direct it toward extreme positions,” he wrote in the third person. Then he apologized: “If I was a Nazi, I regret it.” This Friday Daia remembered that letter. “Dr. Rodolfo Barra [...] expressed to the Daia in the nineties an apology for his horrific behaviors and manifestations when he was young. It is important to highlight what happened, since he will be in charge of the highest body of the State Lawyers Corps and will have as its central axis the fight against anti-Semitism and discrimination. The Daia will be present to ensure their adherence to the law and that this is fulfilled no matter who governs.”
Other sectors of the Argentine Jewish community went beyond the warning. The Argentine Forum Against Antisemitism (Faca), made up of dozens of intellectuals, journalists and academics, said that Barra’s appointment is “a direct affront to the democratic and plural spirit” of Argentina. “A new government cannot begin its administration by harboring individuals who have professed anti-Semitism or any form of expression of hate in its ranks,” said Faca.
Barra will be in charge of the Attorney General’s Treasury. From that position he will advise the state on legal matters and defend it from possible lawsuits. His job will not be easy: he will have to shield the far-right administration from the demands he expects to receive after the application of an adjustment plan that will affect ministries, unions and the distribution of funds to the provinces. Barra has experience in this, because in the 1990s he advised Menem on the privatization of more than 60 state companies. Milei will recover that privatizing spirit starting in December.
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