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Argentine President Nestor Kirchner

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Remarks by the President of Argentina,
Nestor Kirchner
at the Annual Meeting of the American Jewish Committee
"Taking action in a changed world"

Washington, May 6, 2004

Mr. President, Harold Tanner,
Executive Director, Mr. David Harris,
Leaders of the social organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I want to give very special thanks to the leaders of the American Jewish Committee for having distinguished me with this invitation. It is a great honor to be able to share in this place the commemoration of 350 years of Jewish presence in the United States.

My country, the Argentine Republic is also a country of immigrants that has been an important port of entry for thousands of Jewish families. The Jewish community in Argentina is the sixth in importance among the Jewish communities of the Diaspora and the most important in Latin America.

For over a 150 years, its presence in our country has engaged in the widest variety of activities. Commerce, Industry, the arts, scholarly activities, each corner of the community life has been enriched by the Jewish culture.

It is for this reason that the terrorist attacks in 1992 and 1994 against the Embassy of Israel and the AMIA have so profoundly hurt our very being.

It is for this reason that it is hurting and compromising and for us a source of shame, that it has not been possible to clarify, arrest and punish the culprits of this enormous affront against the Argentine people.

Those attacks are the most evident and nearest antecedents of what happened on September 11 in this country. They are wounds that remind us, were that necessary, of the need to redouble the efforts to combat the terrorism that carried them out.

Our most firm commitment to historical truth will not give up until we achieve justice in the case of the Embassy and in the case of AMIA.

This commitment does not end with the decrees aimed at promoting, rationalizing, giving transparency to the procedure and the search for evidence in order to deepen the investigations.

It is a constant concern of the Argentine government and a true policy of State. It is for this that we promote for the State a more pro-active action in order to attain full clarification and adjudicate punishment.

Within this line of thought the creation of the Unidad de Relevación de Información (Collection of Information Unit) is to be valued, an agency whose aim is to detect the records existing in the intelligence department, in the Federal Police and the Security Forces, an agency with unrestricted access to any class of documents, reports or files, whatever the classification that keeps them closed.

In another vein, we have extended the mandate of the Commission on the Inquiries on Nazi Activities (CEANA), given that it constitutes the academic support of the projects presented by our country to the Working Group on the International Cooperation for the Education, Memory and Investigation of the Holocaust, that our country is part with an important group of countries.

These initiatives constitute a central chapter in the fight against impunity, but they do not prevent us from the pain caused by the marches and countermarches that have blocked the effective action of bringing those responsible to justice for over a decade.

The institutional quality that we need requires a frontal and inexorable fight for the rule of law and respect for human rights, that is imbedded in our constitution. In our country, we want and we must consolidate a true culture of respect for human rights.

The fight against impunity in the matter of the attacks, as well as the question of the disappeared people and the recovery of the missing children -nowadays men and women of almost thirty years of age- occupy a central place in our agenda.

Let nobody see a spirit of revenge or nostalgia of the past in this fight, that is no other than the fight for clarification, truth, justice and memory.

From the cosmic vision that the respect for the human person and their dignity derive from the principles that are previous to the formulation of positive law and acknowledges its origins in the very beginning of the history of humankind, we insist in firmly supporting the strengthening of the international system of protection of human rights and the bringing to justice and punishing those who violate them.

We understand, beyond the politicization that some may want to engage in, that this is not a matter that admits visions from the left, center or right, but that it must constitute a basis on which the institutions of the various countries must carry out their activities.

Respect for diversity and plurality and the indefatigable fight against impunity constitute unrelinquishable principles our country embraces, after having suffered the tragedy of the latest decades.

In the same manner in which we fight against economic poverty, we uphold the need to act with a conduct without double standards in order to avoid civic poverty.

We practice remembrance without rancor, without resentment. A memory that for our country must be political learning, historical balance and a challenge.

Our Jewish fellow citizens, that enrich our diversity and share our destiny with the rest of the Argentine inhabitants have a lot to give to this remembrance.

In the crisis, that we are overcoming with effort, a 20 percent of the Jewish community was also affected.

When the dictatorship persecuted and caused the oppositors to disappear, Jewish people were also part of its victims.

It is important to note a fact that makes evident another nefarious aspect of those who conceived and carried out those heinous crimes: the Jewish community being around one percent of our population, the victims of the dictatorship of Jewish origin constituted almost eleven percent of the total.

Testimonies from other victims give evidence that they were the object of special cruelties for the mere fact of being Jewish.

We know that not only the fight against anti-Semitism, but also the fight to keep the memory of nazi crimes alive and the permanent effort to avoid any form of discrimination are strong reasons that unite us.

We must also stand united behind the ideals towards a more balanced, more fair and more pluralistic world.

In our world of today, terrorism as much as the violation of human rights, the massacres associated with armed conflicts or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, make us hold a decided stance, struggling for the observance of international law and the principles consecrated in the Charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, so that we do not forget and therefore not repeat, the tragedies that have shaken humankind.

From our Latin America we hold that one of the main risks that emerge from the present world situation, is that the extensive and hurting gap that exists between the different states of development, between the different regions, becomes even deeper and that the levels of inequality and exclusion in our societies get even greater.

Finally, I think that when old concepts are not longer any good. When old paradigms claim for their substitution. When it is necessary to give birth to the new, we must take advantage of pluralism, diversity, policromy, so that we can stop the world from suffering.

The pain for those who were in the Twin Towers, for those who were waiting to be attended to at the AMIA, for those travelling to their places of work in the trains in Madrid, for those who went to the Embassy to find their deaths, must go hand in hand with the pain for those who suffer poverty or exclusion or face any type of discrimination.

Argentina acknowledges today that multilateralism and effective international cooperation are the best chance to build a more peaceful, rational and solidary world.

A rational analysis must tie the solution of the problems that the world order originates and the security of those who inhabit it, to the possibility of attaining and deepening democracy and development.

If inequality is the winner, if exclusion wins the battle, the world will be less secure.

I hope I haven´t been too long, I do not want to let this occasion go without paying a heartfelt homage in the name of the Argentine people.

We want to pay homage to Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, for his work in favor of respect for human rights.

As you know, he was of Jewish origin and North American citizenship.

He lived in our country, confronted and was against the terrorist dictatorship, was the founder of the Jewish Movement for Human Rights, and he was known for his courageous actions in saving many lives.

He was a member of the Permanent Assembly for the Rights of Man and in 1984 of the National Commision on the Disappearance of People (CONADEP), contributing to its prestige.

He died in New York on December 27, 1993.

He represents many of the values that we want to uphold in order to build a new Argentina.

I reiterate my profound belief and the commitment of my Government to achieving justice and keeping in our memory each of our dead. I know that among many other things, we share this line of action in the world that it is our turn to act upon.

Thank you very much, from the botton of my heart.