One of the most highly regarded political consultants in Argentina is facing criminal charges from a federal prosecutor for saying in a public interview that Adolf Hitler “was a spectacular guy,” a court source said Tuesday.
Lead spokesman for the Buenos Aires mayor Jaime Duran Barba was charged with voicing approval of a criminal act, the source told French News Agency AFP.
Mayor Mauricio Macri, considered a potential candidate for president in 2015, panned Barba’s statements.
“There simply are no possible positive words for the man responsible for history’s largest genocide,” Macri said.
Barba was called in by the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism Monday to explain his statements in the interview, as it considered whether to charge him with “racist propaganda or defense of Nazis,” the Buenos Aires Herald reported Tuesday.
Leaders in Argentina’s Jewish community had mixed reactions to Barba’s comments.
Wiesenthal Center Latin American Director Sergio Widder took a hard-line stance, calling for Barba to step aside and saying his comments showed “utter disdain” for Holocaust victims, according to the Herald.
DAIA Jewish Community Community Association President Julio Schlosser was more cautious, expressing concern, but qualifying that he did not know the context.
The recently elected Republican Proposal party lawmaker Sergio Bergman, the first rabbi elected to parliament in Argentina, condemned the comments and called on Barba to apologize, but said that he didn’t think Barba “supports totalitarian regimes” and should be allowed to continue in his post.
Barba made the comments during a comparison between the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Hitler.
When a reporter disagreed with the comparison, Barba answered, “No. Hitler was a spectacular guy. He was very important in the world.”
Argentina, home to the second largest Jewish population in the Americas, was notorious after World War II as a hiding place for Nazi war criminals.