A scandalous week for Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella, the DAIA, has ended in an apology on the part of the entity’s ousted former president Ariel Cohen Sabban. “I wish to ask for forgiveness for the mortification that I have caused you”, Cohen Sabban said, addressing the woman he is alleged to have made sexual advances on, actress Esmeralda Mitre.
“The unfortunate incidents that have been made public have also caused me and my family great pain”, he said. Mitre responded to the apology on social media, saying she had “closed this chapters and will move forward”.
“I also want to express that the unfortunate experience I went through does not alter the high esteem I have for the Jewish community and its institution”, she added. Cohen Saben was forced to resign last week following Mitre’s allegations that he fondled her and tried to kiss her. “He touched my breast and wanted to give me a kiss”, Esmeralda Mitre told Jorge Lanata’s radio programme Lanata sin Filtro. Mitre had met with the DAIA leadership at their headquarters in downtown Buenos Aires before a subsequent meeting in her home.
The DAIA requested Cohen Sabann’s resignation last Saturday evening following the airing of the scandal in the media and online.
On Tuesday, the head of DAIA’s board, Diego Dlugovitzky, called for the full resignation of the entity’s leadership. “We trust that the time has come for renewal”, Dlugovitzky, said in a letter addressed to the DAIA’s new president Alberto Indij, adding that the current leadership team “lacks the legitimacy and representation to continue at the helm of the DAIA”. Indij had come out in defence of Cohen Sabban, saying he had no choice but to believe his predecessor.
However, voice messages leaked to the media seemed to indicate, at the very least, that Mitre’s accusations about Cohen Sabban’s request for money are legitimate.
Mitre met with Cohen Sabban and his colleagues last week to apologise to the DAIA for recent comments in which she questioned the number of Holocaust victims. Initially, the actress refused to give details about the subsequent meeting in her home where the former DAIA chief is alleged to have assaulted her.
In April, Mitre claimed in an interview with news portal Infobae that local human rights groups had inflated the number of people disappeared during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship for political and financial reasons. She alleged that like the dictatorship, the number of victims of the Holocaust “was not that many”.
Mitre’s comments sparked outrage and she was summoned to speak with the DAIA’s leadership. “I told them I was sorry and asked for forgiveness, that I was willing to go further than just retract my statements”, she said.
“I was in a position of vulnerability like never before in my life”, she added. Mitre also alleges that Cohen Sabban wanted her to fund a trip, including travel for the DAIA leadership and a press junket, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.