Kirchner boycotts Ahmadinejad

A few years ago I praised Argentina’s new leftist president, Nestor Kirchner, for “turning over rocks that have hidden some of the country’s sordid history for years and decades.”

Among other things, Kirchner opened sealed government documents relating to the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires which killed 86 people.

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The investigation of the bombing stalled due to the incompetence and corruption of previous governments.

In October Argentine prosecutors formally charged the Iranian government and Hezbollah in the murderous attack, and called for the arrest of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven others. The Iranian government, of course, has refused to extradite Rafsanjani or anyone else.

So it’s reassuring that Kirchner is standing on principle by refusing to join other leaders in greeting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his current Latin American tour.

The Iranian leader plans to meet this week with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and possibly others. They are expected to discuss broadening bilateral agreements, such as the technology-sharing deals that Chávez signed with Iran last year.

“Clearly the actors driving all of this are Chávez and Ahmadinejad,” said Michael Shifter, an analyst with the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy forum in Washington. “Both of them see themselves as global players, and so it’s nice for them to build these sorts of alliances and coalitions, which people like Correa and Morales are inclined to join in.”

Although Argentina maintains friendly relations with each of those leaders, Kirchner’s domestic agenda is driving him in a different direction. For example, he canceled plans to attend Correa’s inauguration ceremony Monday after Ahmadinejad announced that he would attend.

I’m sure I could find much to dispute with Kirchner, not least his lavish praise for Chavez, but at least– unlike some other “leftists”– he draws the line at embracing a man who protects people almost certainly responsible for the mass murder of Jews as Jews.

There was a time when this was the minimum you could expect from those who identified themselves with the Left. Not anymore.