Jewish organizations in Argentina have expressed concern after President-elect Javier Milei designated Rodolfo Barra, a former member of a Nazi movement, as head of the Treasury’s prosecution office.
Barra, a 76-year-old lawyer, participated in the Tacuara Nationalist Movement, a far-right Peronist group created in 1957 that veered towards neo-Nazism during the 1960s. The movement engaged in antisemitic violence including killings, kidnappings, and vandalizing and defacing Jewish buildings.
In 1996, Barra was forced to quit as then-president Carlos Menem’s justice minister when his participation in the Tacuara movement publicly surfaced. He is considered one of the men behind Menem’s state reform, which included the privatization of state-owned companies.
On Friday, Milei’s team announced Barra’s appointment in the same post on X (formerly Twitter) that confirmed Patricia Bullrich as the incoming Security Minister. He will be in charge of issues including the YPF expropriation trial’s defense strategy.
“The new government cannot have officials who in the past have expressed anti-Semitic ideas,” the Argentine Forum Against Antisemitism wrote in a statement. “We hope that this appointment will be reconsidered to honor the democratic will of the Argentine people.”
Following Friday’s announcement, the Memoria Activa (Active Memory) association shared a 1996 exposé by Noticias magazine, featuring a photo of Barra making the Nazi salute and admitting his time in Tacuara. “If I was a Nazi, I regret it,” Barra famously told the publication.
“Today, almost 28 years later, impunity is repeated and so is our demand,” said the organization created by relatives of the AMIA and Israeli Embassy bombings. “We express our absolute rejection of the appointment of Rodolfo Barra as Treasury Attorney,” the organization stressed.
The Delegation of Israeli-Argentine Associations (DAIA, by its Spanish initials) stressed that Barra had already apologized for his “horrific behavior and expressions from his youth”.
In a communiqué posted on X, they emphasized that fighting antisemitism and discrimination will be “core” to the organization Barra will lead, adding that they would ensure that he respects the law while in his role.
Claudio Avruj, former head of the DAIA and Human Rights Secretary under Mauricio Macri, rejected the DAIA’s stance. He said that the Jewish community pushed for Barra to resign after his connections to Tacuara came to light in the 1990s. ” As a former executive director of the entity, I reject this statement,” he said.
Barra later became a Supreme Court Justice, a constituent in the 1994 constitutional reform, and General Auditor of the Nation until 2002. According to a résumé published on his website, he started in the public service as Secretary of Works in Menem’s administration, a position he held for less than a year when he was appointed Interior Secretary.
Menem appointed Barra justice minister in 1994, a position he held until July 1996 when his participation in Tacuara became public.
During his administration, he established a so-called “Gag Law”, a bill forbidding the publication of private conversations and pictures at a time when corruption scandals involving the government were all over the news.
-with information from Télam