May 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
This post was published at the excellent Jacobin Magazine blog.
Are we done yet? Do we have to endure another full day of self-congratulation at Obama’s personal endorsement of same-sex marriage? His announcement was heralded with as much praise as last summer’s legalization of gay marriage in New York. And that was, you know, actual legislation.
This is hardly surprising given the fact that marriage equality is designed to distract liberal consciences and give Democrats political cover to gut social services. While the passage of gay marriage enjoyed the support of prominent campaign donors, it was directly preceded by cuts to homeless shelters for queer youth. It’s a campaign season bait-and-switch — winning votes without making real concessions.
February 5, 2012 § 5 Comments
Elliott Abrams, a former high level State Department official during the 1980s, testified last week that the Reagan administration knew that Argentina’s military junta was systematically stealing babies from murdered and jailed democracy activists and giving them to right-wing families friendly to the regime.
In a meeting with the Junta’s ambassador in Washington on December 3, 1982, Abrams suggested that the dictatorship could “improve its image” by creating a process with the Catholic Church of returning the children, some of whom were born in secret torture chambers, to their legitimate families. The contents of this meeting were recorded in a memo Abrams wrote, which was declassified by the State Department in 2002 and is now a key piece of evidence against former junta officials in this high profile trial.
October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
by Mark Weisbrot
This article was written for the Guardian’s Comment is free prior to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s reelection yesterday.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to coast to re-election as president of Argentina on Sunday, despite having faced hostility from the media for most of her presidency, and from many of the most powerful economic interests in the country. So it seems a good time to ask why this might happen.
Yes, it’s the economy. Since Argentina defaulted on $95bn of international debt nine years ago and blew off the International Monetary Fund, the economy has done remarkably well. For the years 2002-2011, using the IMF‘s projections for the end of this year, Argentina has chalked up real GDP growth of about 94%. This is the fastest economic growth in the western hemisphere – about twice that of Brazil, for example, which has also improved enormously over past performance. Since President Fernandez or her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who preceded her as president, were running the country for eight of these nine years, it shouldn’t be surprising that voters will reward her with another term.
The benefits of growth don’t always trickle down, but in this case, the Argentine government has made sure that many did. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced by about two thirds since their peak in 2002, and employment has increased to record levels. Social spending by the government has nearly tripled in real terms. In 2009, the government implemented a cash transfer program for children that now reaches the households of more than 3.5 million children. It is probably the largest such program, relative to national income, in Latin America.
January 9, 2011 § 1 Comment
by Kurt Fernández
“All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.” George Orwell, 1984
In her effort to whitewash the history of Argentina’s dirty war, Mary Anastasia O’Grady makes up a lot of stuff. The reader need go no further than the bold lie in her lead to dismiss her so-called op-ed as right wing propaganda.
O’Grady writes that “in Argentina today it is off limits to even mention in public the victims of the country’s left-wing terrorism of the 1970s”.
I’ve lived in Buenos Aires for the last three years and have spoken about the dirty war with Argentines from all walks of life. They are apparently unaware of the taboo O’Grady has fabricated. In fact, everyone talks about the victims of left-wing trade unions and political groups of the 1960s and 1970s. The subject is discussed ad nauseam in the ongoing human rights trials of military and police officials who carried out the state’s clandestine war against opponents. It is written about almost daily in newspapers. It is aired on television programs. Cab drivers, friends, anyone who talks about the days of the dirty war can be expected to mention the victims of O’Grady’s “band of Castro-inspired guerillas who sought to take power by terrorizing the nation”. Sympathy is sometimes expressed, but few stoop to using these victims to justify the atrocities of the military junta. There are exceptions. The dictator himself, Jorge Rafael Videla – who is serving a life sentence in prison for kidnapping, torture, murder, and trafficking in newborns – has an extremely soft spot in his heart for the victims of the guerillas. And he never fails to publicly defend his attempt to rid Argentina of the scourge.
October 30, 2010 § 2 Comments
by Kurt Fernández
At a cocktail party a few weeks ago, a young lady from Mississippi studying here in Buenos Aires asked: ”Where are the Padres?”
A good question. The Madres—the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo—are everywhere. With their signature white head kerchiefs, they are the mothers of youths who were tortured and killed by the terrorist military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 until 1983 and disappeared an estimated 30,000 people in Argentina. The fathers, however, have been largely invisible.
Except one: Nestor Kirchner, president of Argentina from 2003 to 2007, who passed away October 27.
Kirchner was too young, of course, to qualify as an actual father. In fact, as a youth he was a militant leftist and could easily have been disappeared himself. When he became president, 20 years after the restoration of democracy in Argentina, the dictators and their lackeys were leading the good life, protected by an amnesty. Kirchner pushed the government and the courts to shake off their laissez-faire treatment of the mass murderers who had set aside all concept of law and decency to destroy mostly young student and labor militant activists.
September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
by Marie Trigona
Julio Lopez, Luciano Arruga, Silvia Suppo – three names recently listed the doleful roll call of Argentina’s victims of state repression, a legacy left over from the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship. These three names have left painful reminders of the paradigm of disappearances and of how the social stigma of the crimes committed during the dictatorship has scarred Argentina and other nations which survived brutal military dictatorships.
Argentines recently commemorated the four-year anniversary of the disappearance of Julio Lopez with a demand that the torture survivor and human rights activist be found alive. After four years of searching, marches, and impunity, the cries for justice and punishment seem to have found no response from an indifferent government which claims to defend human rights. Activists also demanded information on the whereabouts of Luciano Arruga, a 16-year-old who was forcefully disappeared in January, 2009, and called for an investigation into the 2010 murder of Silvia Suppo, a human rights activist and torture survivor testifying in a landmark human rights trial. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 28, 2010 § 4 Comments
The following letter was sent to The New York Times by Oliver Stone, Mark Weisbrot and Tariq Ali in response to a grossly distorted account of their new film ‘South of the Border‘ by Larry Rohter, a one time backer of the 2002 coup attempt.
Larry Rohter attacks our film, “South of the Border,” for “mistakes, misstatements and missing details.” But a close examination of the details reveals that the mistakes, misstatements, and missing details are his own, and that the film is factually accurate. We will document this for each one of his attacks. We then show that there is evidence of animus and conflict of interest, in his attempt to discredit the film. Finally, we ask that you consider the many factual errors in Rohter’s attacks, outlined below, and the pervasive evidence of animus and conflict of interest in his attempt to discredit the film; and we ask that The New York Times publish a full correction for these numerous mistakes.
1) Accusing the film of “misinformation,” Rohter writes that “A flight from Caracas to La Paz, Bolivia, flies mostly over the Amazon, not the Andes. . .” But the narration does not say that the flight is “mostly” over the Andes, just that it flies over the Andes, which is true. (Source: Google Earth).
2) Also in the category of “misinformation,” Rohter writes “the United States does not ‘import more oil from Venezuela than any other OPEC nation,’ a distinction that has belonged to Saudi Arabia during the period 2004-10.”
June 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
by Kurt Fernández
BUENOS AIRES — While some nations are known to take advantage of global distraction by the World Cup in order to perpetrate human rights violations, Argentina is pressing ahead in its efforts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed during the Guerra Sucia.
In the first of eight major human rights trials currently getting underway, a three-judge panel in Buenos Aires took up a case on June 3 in which six former military and intelligence officials from the 1976-83 dictatorship are charged with the illegal kidnap, torture, and murder of suspected political opponents from Uruguay, Chile, and Cuba.
The victims were among the 30,000 or so opponents of the Argentine regime who were disappeared during the Dirty War.
The case is “Automotores Orletti,” named for the Buenos Aires auto repair shop the dictatorship used as a ghastly clandestine “detention center.” One of many such facilities across the country, its kidnap victims were tortured with repair shop machinery and tools.
Argentine Cause for Celebration Goes Beyond Revolutionary Bicentennial as Dirty War Hearings Continue
June 4, 2010 § 1 Comment
By Kurt Fernández
Assassins, sons of 1,000 bitches, we hate you.” —Hebe de Bonafini, Madres de la Plaza de Mayo
BUENOS AIRES – Argentines glowed with pride last week as they swarmed the streets of their grand capital to celebrate 200 years since their revolt against Spain.
Music, food, parades, visiting dignitaries, the reopening of the world class Teatro Colón opera house, and the inauguration of a gallery of Latin American heroes at the presidential palace were enjoyed by millions as the country shut down for a long four-day weekend.
Not far from the festivities, the country’s judicial system is quietly giving Argentines another source of national pride as alleged criminals of the guerra sucia, or Dirty War, are being held accountable for the ruthless kidnapping, torture, and death of up to 30,000 opponents of the 1976-83 military dictatorship.
Alleged Death Flight Pilot Fights Charges with Legal Tools Denied to Victims of Argentina’s Dirty War
May 22, 2010 § 2 Comments
by Kurt Fernández
BUENOS AIRES—Julio Alberto Poch, the former Argentine naval pilot being held on charges that he flew hundreds of “vuelos de la muerte” or death flights during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, appeared relaxed as he walked into federal court in Buenos Aires on May 20.
Poch was recently extradited from Spain in a sequence of events that began after alarmed colleagues at the Dutch airline Transavia.com testified to an Argentine federal judge that Poch, an airline employee, had bragged about such feats as having piloted planes that disposed of leftist terrorists during Argentina’s “Guerra Sucia,” or Dirty War.
In an affirmation of the rule of law—and in stark contrast to the conditions in which many victims of the Dirty War were “brought to justice”—Poch was neither hooded nor in leg irons nor naked nor drugged as he stepped from the fourth floor elevator at the federal judicial building in Buenos Aires’ Retiro neighborhood.