Argentine Cause for Celebration Goes Beyond Revolutionary Bicentennial as Dirty War Hearings Continue

Photo montage of desaparecidos from the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo exhibit, part of the official bicentennial celebrations in Buenos Aires. (Photo: Kurt Fernández)

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.

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Alleged Death Flight Pilot Fights Charges with Legal Tools Denied to Victims of Argentina’s Dirty War

Julio Alberto Poch, whose career progressed from death flights to commercial flights. (Photo: El País)

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.

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