LIMA, Peru/SAO PAOLO, Brazil: The attendance of an Iranian vice president at the inaugural ceremony of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has spurred outrage among the Latin American Jewish community.
Mohsen Rezaee, vice president for economic affairs, represented Iran at Ortega’s inauguration on Monday.
The Sandinista leader, who has ruled the Central American country since 2007, was sworn in for his fourth consecutive mandate.
Rezaee, who led the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for 16 years, is part of a group of Iranian officials who allegedly masterminded the 1994 bombing of the building of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, known by the Spanish acronym AMIA.
The detonation of a truck loaded with explosives killed 85 people and left more than 200 injured at the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, a city with an estimated population of 200,000 Jews, the largest such community in Latin America.
A long inquiry carried out by Argentinian authorities with the help of Israeli and US intelligence resulted in Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral’s 2006 arrest order against former Iranian President Ali Rafsanjani and other senior officials, including Rezaee.
A member of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah was also part of Canicoba’s arrest warrant. Since 2007, the group behind the bombing has been on the Interpol wanted list.
The attack on AMIA was the second terrorist bombing of Jewish targets in Argentina. Two years earlier, in 1992, an explosion at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people.
The charges against Rezaee were further strengthened by his own son Ahmad, who left Iran for the US in 1998 and told American authorities that the attack was planned by Tehran and that Hezbollah was involved.
After a short period in the US, he returned to Iran and retracted his previous claims. He was found dead in a Dubai hotel in 2011.
Rezaee rejected the Argentinian charges as “a sheer lie” in an interview to the Los Angeles Times in 2009. He said he had been traveling internationally and had never had any problem.
Indeed, his visit to Nicaragua has not led to his detention. He not only attended the inauguration, but also had a meeting with Ortega, his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo on Thursday, Sandinista newspaper E19 reported.
Fernando Lottenberg, the Organization of the American States’ commissioner to monitor and combat antisemitism, issued a formal repudiation of Rezaee’s trip to Nicaragua, emphasizing that he “is under the Interpol red alert and Nicaragua, as a member of such an institution, must carry out the detention order.”
Lottenberg, formerly head of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, told Arab News that he and other members of the Latin American Jewish community are worried about the apparent closeness of Iran and some of the region’s nations.
“The Iranians have a long-lasting relationship with Venezuela. It seems that this process is reaching other countries,” he said.
“Rezaee attended Ortega’s inaugural ceremony and also took pictures with the Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel.”
The Jewish community is “worried about such relations established by nations in our region with an antisemitic and dictatorial regime,” Lottenberg said.
He added that while Nicaragua announced in November 2021 its intention to leave the OAS, the country still has to fulfill its obligations with the organization for two years. “It’s not an automatic process,” he explained.
AMIA released a statement on Tuesday reaffirming its demand for “rigorous monitoring of the Iranian defendants when they leave their country, so that they cannot move freely through nations that protect them.”
The statement added: “Almost 28 years after the attack on its headquarters, AMIA reiterates its unwavering commitment to the search for justice and to the demand that those responsible for the crime against humanity carried out be tried with the constitutional guarantees established by the law of our country.”
AMIA said Argentina’s Ambassador to Nicaragua Daniel Capitanich attended the ceremony and “did not leave the premises nor alerted the authorities on such a serious situation.”
Over the past few days, opposition members of Congress in Argentina have condemned President Alberto Fernandez’s administration for sending Capitanich to the inauguration.
The Argentinian Chancellery said Capitanich did not know that Rezaee would be present. Later, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry released a statement protesting Rezaee’s presence.