Monday, April 6, 2020

ARGENTINA | 30-12-2018 09:31

Ex-Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman dies aged 65

Former journalist and human rights activst, with long political history, served as US ambassador and later foreign minister during Kirchnerite years. Prosecuted in the AMIA case, he had been seriously ill for the past few years.

Former foreign minister Héctor Marcos Timerman died this morning, aged 65, after a long battle with cancer.

The former Kirchnerite official, who led the Foreign Ministry from June 2010 to December 2015, had been known to be of deteriorating health in recent years, and he finally succumbed to the illness at around 8am this morning, his lawyer confirmed to local media.

His brother, Javier Timerman, paid tribute on social media, posting: "Brother of my soul. Thank you for everything you did for me. I admire you greatly. I will miss you more than you can imagine."

The son of the legendary journalist and founder of La Opinión, Jacobo Timerman, Héctor began working at a young age as the editor-in-chief of the controversial periodical La Tarde, an outlet owned by his father which initially offered its support to the military dictatorship (1976-1983). 

However, Timerman Snr's infamous kidnapping at the hands of a paramilitary group in 1977 prompted an awakening of sorts for the journalist, who then went on to become active in the defence of human rights while in exile in the United States, before going on to become involved in politics and diplomacy. During his time in the US, his profile as a journalist rose, with contributions to publications such as The New York Times, The LA Times, Newsweek and The Nation.

Return to Argentina

A recognised expert in international relations – he achieved a master's degree at Columbia University in the subject during his time in America – Timerman returned to Argentina in 1989 and became involved again with the media, establishing two new outlets (Debate and Tres Puntos) and contributing to publications such as Noticias and Ámbito Financiero.

He would later go on to serve as Argentina's consul general in New York and then ambassador to the United States during the Kirchnerite years, after becoming a supporter of Néstor Kirchner in the early 2000s. Becoming increasingly close to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, he was appointed foreign minister in 2010 under her administration, replacing the outgoing Jorge Taiana, who departed under a cloud.

His time heading the ministry was marked by a lack of progress on the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands dispute, the conflict with the so-called 'vulture' hold-out funds and, primarily, by the investigation into the 1994 AMIA Jewish community centre bombing and the infamous signing of the 'Memorandum of Understanding' with Iran. This last issue, which would see him denounced by late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, would come to dominate his final years.

Nisman, whose 2015 death remains unsolved, had contended that the 2013 agreement with Iran, which was portrayed as a joint attempt to solve the case, in reality ensured that the Iranians involved would never be prosecuted. A joint "truth commission" called for by the deal was approved by Congress but it was never formed because it was later ruled by local courts to be unconstitutional.

Investigators have linked former Iranian officials to the attack, but Iran has denied any connection with the attack and declined to turn over suspects.

Timerman, as a signatory to the agreement, and Fernández de Kirchner both denied there was a cover-up.


On December 7, 2017, Timerman was detained and remanded in custody on the orders of federal judge Claudio Bonadio, as part of his investigation into the alleged cover-up of the 1994 bombing. He was accused of assisting the effort. 

However, by this stage, his health was deteriorating drastically, as a liver cancer diagnosis spread to his lungs and bones. After his initial request to be released from jail on humanitarian grounds failed, substitute Federal Judge Sergio Torres eventually approved the move, granting his request to fly to the United States to undergo experimental treatment for lung cancer.

The US initially blocked the move, refusing a visa because of his legal problems, but the ex-foreign minister – following diplomatic support and lobbying to Washington from President Mauricio Macri – was eventually cleared to travel.

In July, Timerman gave oral testimony from his home as part of the investigation into the alleged cover-up of the AMIA attack.

"Four years have passed ... can you tell me what the cause was?" he asked the judges leading the trial. "The only thing that has advanced is my cancer. And that is a great frustration." 

Héctor Marcos Timerman, born December 16, 1953, is survived by his wife Anabella Sielecki, and daughters Amanda and Jordana.


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