Argentine president pays tribute to attack victims in NYC

JTA

(JTA) — President Mauricio Macri of Argentina joined New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in paying tribute to the victims of the Oct. 31 terrorist attack in downtown Manhattan.

Five of the eight people killed were from the Argentine city of Rosario, in the province of Santa Fe. The governor of Santa Fe, Miguel Lifchitz, who is Jewish, also participated in Monday’s ceremony.

“We will remember them always as New Yorkers,” said de Blasio, referring to Diego Enrique Angelini, Ariel Erlij, Hernán Diego Mendoza, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco and Hernán Ferruchi, the Argentines killed when the driver of a rented truck plowed into a bike path. Erlij was a Jewish businessman who was in New York with his friends to celebrate their 30th high school reunion.

“We join President Macri and the entire Argentine people in mourning for the five Argentines killed in the terrorist attack on Tuesday,” de Blasio added in Spanish.

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Macri is in New York with his wife, Juliana Awada, and Argentine politicians on a previously scheduled two-day visit that will include meetings with businesspeople seeking to invest in Argentina.

“Terrorism does not distinguish, between neither countries nor nationalities,” he said at the tribute. “It was a cowardly act.”

The driver in the attack, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, was shot and is in custody.

Macri and his wife also gave a long hug to Guillermo Banchini, one of the five survivors of the group of Argentine friends who traveled together to New York.

The bodies of the five Argentine victims arrived Monday in Buenos Aires and, at the time of the ceremony in New York, were being transported by land to Rosario City for their funerals.

Members of the main Jewish community center of Rosario and Jewish institutions of Argentina in a statement expressed their sorrow about the deaths. Rosario is located 186 miles northwest of Buenos Aires and is the largest city of the Santa Fe province.

Erlij, 48, was Jewish but did not participate in any community institutions or activities. He was the main organizer of the trip and helped other two members pay their way. He left behind three sons. Erlij also lent the money necessary for the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra to play in Rosario in 2009.

The other four Argentine victims were not Jewish but had ties to the Jewish community. Ferruchi is the husband of a Jewish member of the Rosario JCC and the father of two girls that are members. Pagnucco is the brother of a physical education instructor who has spent the past 25 years working at the same JCC.

Infobae news published a video of the group enjoying a bike trip minutes before the attack.

The Jewish political umbrella of Argentina, DAIA, in a statement expressed “its strongest repudiation and condemnation” for the terrorist attack and also its “solidarity with the victims and their families.”

The Buenos Aires JCC AMIA released a statement saying that as “an institution that for over 23 years suffered the murderous actions of terrorism in its own home stands in solidarity with the families of the victims.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter to Macri offering his “deepest condolences” over the deaths.

“We stand in solidarity with you, the Argentinean people and the bereaved families, and offer our heartfelt sympathies for your loss,” he wrote.