Argentines rally after acquittals in AMIA bombing case

buenos aires | Mariela Kaltman closed each and every button on her daughters’ windbreakers to protect the young girls from the evening chill. But Nicole, 13, and Sol, 4, paid no attention to the temperature; they were focused on keeping their candles lit.

Kaltman and her daughters were among thousands of sullen-faced Argentines who gathered Sept. 8, on the large square in front of the National Congress to express frustration with the stalled investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center, which killed 85 people.

“As we don’t have strong politicians, the citizens must come to make a presence, to demand justice, to stand for the memory that is the flag of our people,” Kaltman said.

The 90-minute rally came after five accused accomplices to the bombing were acquitted Sept. 2. More than 40 Jewish community organizations and 10 political groups supported the demonstration.

The majority of the 5,000-10,000 protesters were Jews, though many non-Jews took part as well. Madres del Dolor, a group of parents whose children have been killed in robberies and kidnappings, stood close to the stage, where a sign declared: “3,702 days without justice. Not even one day without memory.”

After a decade of rallies connected to the bombing, many of the faces in the crowd were familiar: The same people were still holding each other’s hands, only now they were older. Survivors of the AMIA bombing hugged others who had lived through terrorist attacks in Israel.

Anger at the perceived impunity of those behind the attack proved so strong that even longtime rivals joined together in the protest. The community’s DAIA political umbrella group, together with AMIA and Familiares de Las Victimas — the biggest group of victims’ relatives — sponsored the rally.

Until the rally, it was thought impossible that Memoria Activa, a group that has criticized the investigation for years, and DAIA, which supported Judge Juan Jose Galeano and former President Carlos Menem — who are accused of bungling the investigation — could demonstrate side by side.

President Nestor Kirchner, who has promised the community to do all he can to find the perpetrators, didn’t attend.

The demonstration was moving and sober. A siren rang out, songs were sung, candles were lit and victims’ names were read out.

Luis Cyzewski, whose daughter, Paola, 21, was killed in the bombing, demanded that the current investigative judge, Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, “wake up and work.’ Cyzewski insisted there was enough evidence for a guilty verdict and condemned the fact that Corral did not appear to have plans to investigate Menem.

Menem has denied accusations reported in The New York Times, that he took a $10 million bribe to deflect the investigation away from Iran.