Argentina was hit by Islamic terrorism twice during the 1990s, becoming the prelude to what the world would come to know years later.
Almost three decades after the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina, the sirens sounded again at 633 Pasteur Street to remind us that history may repeat itself if there is no justice for the 85 dead and more than 300 wounded left by the suicide vehicle that struck at 9.53am on 18 July 1994.
Argentina was hit by Islamic terrorism twice during the 1990s, becoming the prelude to what the world would come to know years later. The terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, the Atocha station in Madrid in 2004 and the Paris attacks in 2015 all had the same common thread: Islamic extremism that managed to circumvent national defense systems.
As it does every 18 July, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, AMIA for its acronym in Spanish, is driving the claim, calling on the community to uphold the demand for memory and justice in the face of the passing of time, which has become an inescapable ally of impunity. In the words of its president, Amos Linetzky, there is no democracy without justice for the victims and survivors of that tragic day.
Amidst the testimonies of the victims and the memory of the noise of the explosion and the rubble, there is also a feeling of impotence in the face of the lack of will to obtain justice. Twenty-nine years later, Argentine judges and prosecutors have managed to prove the intellectual authorship of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the material and operational authorship of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group that functions as Tehran’s armed wing.
Since their arrest by INTERPOL, the Iranian defendants have been able to circumvent (with the complicity of other countries) Red Notices that would have led to their arrest. In January 2022, Mohsen Rezai, a high-ranking Iranian official accused by Argentina and wanted by the judiciary, shared a meeting in Managua, Nicaragua, with the Argentine Foreign Ministry delegation, which caused a scandal of enormous proportions.
Hezbollah is a present threat in Latin America
The vulnerability of security and terrorist counter-intelligence in our country makes everything much more difficult and puts the whole of society at risk of a new attack.
No country is free from the global terrorist threat that feeds on many of the systemic failures that countries like Argentina have. Since the assassination of prosecutor Alberto Natalio Nisman, hours before he was due to present before the National Congress a denunciation of high institutional impact for his accusation against former president and current vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the judicial case has been stuck in a back-and-forth where the way out does not seem close. At the same time, the terrorist threat continues to grow day by day, fueled by organized crime, especially drug trafficking and document forgery.
In the Triple Frontier, the place indicated as the starting point of the 1994 attack, today the terrorist group Hezbollah and Iran continues to finance its activities thanks to illicit business, drug trafficking and the falsification of documents, where there is a marked path towards Venezuela, the regime that has given shelter to the Islamic Republic of Iran since the arrival of Ahmadinejad and his personal relationship with Hugo Chávez.
To speak of terrorism in Latin America, but in Argentina in particular, is also to speak of the drug trafficking that is committing a massacre in areas of Greater Buenos Aires, Rosario and northern Argentina. This lack of political will and commitment to justice to confront global threats makes Hezbollah a threat of the present and not the past. The vulnerability of security and terrorist counter-intelligence in our country makes everything much more difficult and puts the whole of society at risk of a new attack.
One only needs to look at how Captagon, a drug spread between Syria and Lebanon that links trafficking lines that would reach the closest circles of the Al Assad family, has also been introduced into the Tri-Border area and may now be spreading to Paraguay, parts of Brazil and Argentina. Nor has much been done to confront the Islamic radicalization that continues to be promoted in mosques in Buenos Aires and corners of the Islamic community, which is co-opted by those who use religion for their personal interests.
This demand for justice in Argentina has been going on for 29 years. We should also add the 31 years of demands for the attack on the Israeli embassy in March 1992, the investigation of which today depends on the country’s Supreme Court, which is the highest court. Today the AMIA case has no judge, there is no significant progress to clarify the grey areas that remain and the passage of time continues to exert the same pressure as on that day.