In a move that has shocked many, Argentina’s newly elected Prime Minister Javier Milei has appointed Rodolfo Barra, a former justice minister with a controversial past, to head the country’s top legal office. Barra, who resigned nearly three decades ago over ties to a neo-Nazi group, is now set to lead Argentina’s legal efforts against antisemitism and discrimination.
Barra’s Troubled Past
The controversy surrounding Barra dates back to 1996 when his affiliation with UNES, a right-wing youth group connected to the violently antisemitic organization Tacuara, was exposed. This group was responsible for numerous antisemitic incidents, including attacks on synagogues and the murder of a Jewish lawyer. Barra’s involvement in these groups and his participation in a Nazi salute were brought to light, leading to his resignation as justice minister.
Jewish Community’s Mixed Reactions
Argentina’s Jewish community has expressed varied reactions to Barra’s appointment. The main Jewish organization, DAIA, acknowledged Barra’s expressed regret over his past actions. However, a newly formed group opposing antisemitism condemned the appointment as an affront to democracy and pluralism. Another group, representing families of victims from bombings in Buenos Aires in the 1990s, unequivocally rejected Barra’s new role.
The Milei-Barra Connection
Milei, known for his far-right views and support for Israel, has made an unexpected choice in Barra. This decision is particularly striking given Milei’s stated intention to convert to Judaism. The appointment has raised questions and concerns about the government’s commitment to combating antisemitism and promoting a tolerant society.
Vigilance from DAIA
DAIA has emphasized its intention to closely monitor Barra’s department. The organization, which played a significant role in Barra’s resignation in the 1990s, has vowed to ensure that the government adheres to the law in its efforts against discrimination and antisemitism. This vigilance reflects the deep concerns within the Jewish community about Barra’s ability to effectively and justly lead in this crucial area.
A Test for Argentina’s Commitment to Justice
As Barra prepares to assume his new position on December 10, his appointment stands as a significant test of Argentina’s commitment to justice and equality. The decision by Prime Minister Milei has opened up old wounds and sparked a new debate on the country’s approach to its dark history of antisemitism and the ongoing fight against discrimination.