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.
It is no accident that amnesty for the criminals who ran the Argentine Dirty War was lifted during Kirchner’s term and that the first human rights abuse trial was successfully concluded on his watch. Today, President Cristina Fernández, Kirchner’s wife and successor, has kept the pressure on and there are hundreds of Dirty War thugs and assassins sitting in jails in Argentina awaiting a fair trial on charges that rival the most heinous crimes ever committed by a government.
As the posters plastered all over Buenos Aires since Kirchner’s death say: Gracias Nestor. Fuerza Cristina.