Argentina, Mexico deserve slams for attending Ortega’s inauguration — alongside Iranian terror suspect | Opinion

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Argentina and Mexico got what they deserved when they bucked a boycott by the world’s democracies and sent officials to the Jan. 10 inauguration of Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega, now serving a fourth consecutive term.

Both governments are now under fire for attending the ceremony with a top Iranian official wanted in the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s AMIA Jewish community center, which left 85 people dead and more than 300 injured.

Mohsen Rezai, Iran’s vice president for economic affairs, was a guest of honor at Ortega’s swearing-in ceremony, alongside Venezuela’s dictator Nicolás Maduro, Cuban dictator Miguel Diaz Canel, the outgoing president of Honduras and senior officials from China and Russia.

Rezai, a former commander in chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, has an international warrant for his arrest from Interpol as a top suspect in the AMIA bombing.

The United States, the 27-country European Union and most Latin American democracies did not send representatives to Ortega’s ceremony, as a way to protest his sham Nov. 7 elections. What’s more, the Biden administration and the EU slapped new diplomatic sanctions on the Nicaraguan dictatorship on the very day of Ortega’s latest inauguration.

Ortega arrested the seven leading opposition candidates before last year’s elections and, later, proclaimed himself the winner. He holds an estimated 170 political prisoners and, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, is responsible for the deaths of at least 317 peaceful opposition demonstrators during 2018 street protests.

Despite the boycott, the populist leftist governments of Argentina and Mexico sent the heads of their respective embassies in Nicaragua to Monday’s ceremony, in effect, recognizing Ortega’s illegitimate regime.

Hours later, after Argentina’s opposition denounced Rezai’s presence as a guest of honor at the event, the Fernandez government issued a statement condemning the Iranian official’s attendance, noting that Argentina has an outstanding warrant for his arrest in connection with the 1994 bombing.

The statement said Rezai’s presence in Nicaragua was “an affront to the Argentine justice system and the victims of the brutal terrorist attack.

Argentina’s AMIA Jewish community center now is demanding that the Fernandez government “explain why the Argentine ambassador [to Nicaragua] failed to leave the ceremony.”

Opposition lawmaker Waldo Wolff told me he is planning to present a motion in Congress to hold Argentina’s foreign minister accountable for what he described as a “dereliction of duty.”

“Issuing a statement of condemnation is not enough,” Wolff told me. “It was the Argentine government’s duty to seek the arrest of this Iranian official as soon as it learned that he was in Nicaragua.”

In Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said hours before Ortega’s inauguration that, in the absence of a Mexican ambassador to Nicaragua, he would send the Mexican embassy’s charge d’affaires to the inauguration.

“The least they could have done would have been to walk out of the room in protest,” says José Miguel Vivanco, head of the Human Rights Watch advocacy group’s Americas department, referring to the Argentine and Mexican diplomats.

Dina Siegel Vann, head of the American Jewish Committee’s Latin America division, said, “It’s shameful that not only Argentina, but also Mexico, which claims to be a champion of human rights, in effect endorsed by their very presence a man wanted by Argentina and Interpol for acts of terrorism.”

In addition, Tammy Rahamimoff-Honig, Israel’s foreign ministry head of Strategic Affairs, tweeted that it is “outrageous” that Rezai “travels the globe with impunity.” He traveled to Nicaragua through Mauritania and Venezuela, according to Argentina’s daily La Nación.

The bottom line is that nobody should be surprised by the presence of the world’s worst dictatorships at Ortega’s inauguration, but the democratically elected governments of Argentina and Mexico should be singled out for criticism.

Their claims that they were taken by surprise by Rezai’s presence can’t be accepted as a valid excuse.

If you abandon the defense of democracy and human rights, and mix with some of the world’s worst human-rights abusers, you can’t be surprised if you end up sharing a ceremony with a man wanted by Interpol for crimes against humanity.

Argentina and Mexico weren’t innocent bystanders. They deserve the criticism they’re getting.

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