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.
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.
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. Continue reading “Longstanding Impunity Challenges Argentina: 4 Years Without Julio Lopez”
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.
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.
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.