A Travellerspoint blog

Bloody Murder - Golpe de Estado

Human Rights Violations in Argentina during the 70s Military Coup

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"La Guerra Sucia" (or the Dirty War) is not the right term for what happened in Argentina during the 70s and 80s. A War implies a fight between two opposing sides, what occurred was a massacre - State Sponsored Terrorism. The wounds still run deep: 30,000 people died or were 'disappeared', babies were separated from their families and put up for adoption, and even more died during the War of the Falkland Islands (encouraged by the military government in an attempt to unite the people).

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Justice has never really been served. The three military dictators in charge of the Junta remain alive, and for a period of time were simply under house-arrest. Torturers and murderers remain untried and have slipped out of the public eye. And many veterans of the Falklands have still not been fully recognized for their sacrifice.

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Yet the mothers still march in Plaza de Mayo. More and more lost children are being found through DNA testing and a nation-wide search. Military trials are still being held (open to the public) every Wednesday and Friday at the public courthouse. And in the last three weeks we've witnessed two demonstrations: A March to Remember the Overthrow of the Military Coup (1976-1983) and a Ceremony to Commemorate the 31st Anniversary of the Falklands War.

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On Thursday, March 14th we visited the ESMA (Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada), a hidden detention center in a Military School that facilitated the 'transfer' and murder of 5,000 'military threats' with only 150 survivors. Prisoners were bound and gagged with hoods. Some were killed by firing squad and cremated in the sports field, others were sedated and flown over the Atlantic dropping and drowning them in Rio de la Plata. Walking through the damp empty corridors of ESMA was like visiting Auschwitz. It was a hallowing experience. Even after the military burned evidence and changed the layout of the building, the marks are still there. I feel that every place has an aura, and ESMA's was disturbing and unsettling even in broad daylight. Since 2004, it has been redeclared as a Space for Memory and for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.

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This issue hits painfully close to home. In the few conversations we've had with Luciano and Maria, we've learned how they were affected by the Golpe de Estado. I remember in one of our first conversations, Maria brought out a photo of an old woman holding a battered sign and wearing her kerchief. I asked who it was, she quietly responded "Luciano's Mother." Apparently, Luciano's brother and his wife were progressive in their attitudes and were 'disappeared' by the government leaving their children orphans. Luciano recalls planning on fighting back, but his mother restrained him. As she wisely told him, if he protested he too would disappear, if she joined the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo the government would not harm her - after all, she was only an elderly woman. Memories like that cut deep in this country. Everyone knows someone who was exiled or disappeared by the government. In Luciano's case, it was his brother. This news was even more shocking when we heard in another conversation that Videla (the Angel of Death - President during the time of the Junta) was put under house-arrest a few blocks away from us near the local grocery store.

It's so disturbing that the United States federal government supported this Military Junta during the Cold War despite obvious Human Rights Violations.

Posted by Fabian1993 13:41 Archived in Argentina Tagged murder junta plazademayo golpedeestado guerrasucia statesponsoredterrorism videla humanrights esma

Como Covertir su Hijo en un Machista

Combatting Machismo and Male-Domination in Latin America

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Posted by Fabian1993 13:34 Archived in Argentina Tagged machismo intervention

Pass the Salt

Public Health Interventions Against Hypertension

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There's a lot of controversy surrounding Bloomberg and his decision to limit the sale of oversized soda containers, but Argentina has passed a law that is even more controversial and progressive than New York City.

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On June 11, 2011 Argentina passed a law removing salt shakers from the tables of restaurants and hotels. The average Argentinian eats 13 grams of salt daily, while the WHO recommended amount is less than 5 grams daily. Over 3.7 million people in the Buenos Aires province suffer from hypertension. By reducing the daily salt intake by only 3 grams, the Health Minister Collia claims that 2,000 lives could be saved every year. Not only are salt-shakers being removed from restaurant tables, the amount of sodium in bread is being reduced by 40% according to an agreement made with the local breadmakers union. Yet policy and practice are two different things. I myself feel I have consumed more salt here in Buenos Aires than back at home or in India. And despite the prohibition, I still see salt shakers on many of the tables around Buenos Aires.

Regardless, its an interesting Public Health Intervention. (See CNN's Article for more Information)

Posted by Fabian1993 12:35 Archived in Argentina Tagged restaurants salt publichealth intervention bloomberg

Mi Matute (Empanadas & Pizza)

The Local Hang-Out Spot

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Everyday. Without Fail. Around 5/5:30 if you walk by the local Empanada place by our house you'll always find one of our house-mates sitting under the stripped red awning of Mi Matute. It's the local hang-out spot. And look who I found today!

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Posted by Fabian1993 12:27 Archived in Argentina Tagged empanadas hang-out mimatute

The Marriage Question

LGBTQ Rights in Argentina

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Since July 15 2010, same-sex marriage has been legalized in Argentina (including full rights to adoption and visitation). And while I remember the euphoria at reading about this in the newspapers almost three years ago, its interesting to revisit the issue in the wake of the Supreme Court discussions being made in the United States right now.
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I've had a lot of discussions with my friends back in college about the issue of gay marriage. And after taking George Chauncey's Gay and Lesbian History class last fall, I feel like I've had some historical context surrounding this important issue. While I fully support the right of my friends to marry, I along with others, recognize that marriage is a flawed institution and that the HRC's mainstreamed fight for gay marriage is a fight for acceptability; its a fight to broaden the definition of marriage, but not challenge it; its a fight that overlooks trans-people, gender-queers, and many poor people of color; and its a fight that only extends civil rights to a few. Yes, its a small step in the right direction, but as Scott Nakagawa writes in "Why I Support Same Sex Marriage as a Civil Right, But Not as a Strategy to Achieve Structural Change":

"We are arguing to be able to use marriage as a shield against wrongs that no one, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status, should suffer. No loved one should be excluded from survivors benefits and pensions, end of life decision-making, hospital visitation, and the many other family rights reserved for married couples. And when we argue that being able to wield this shield is a right we deserve because we conform with the values of good people, that shield can become a weapon against those who are still excluded."

The law for Interracial Marriage and Civil Rights during the 1960s was a step in the right direction, but it did not mark the end of injustice for African Americans. There still exist policies and oppressive structures that limit the rights of many African-Americans. Just as Interracial Marriage marked a step forward in civil rights, I strongly believe Same-Sex Marriage will also mark a step forward in the rights of many LGB people. But marriage is NOT the end. And my greatest fear is that Americans will simply pat themselves on the back and fail to address more pressing issues within the queer community.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in Letters from Birmingham Jail:
…injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…

In this respect, I think that despite legalizing same-sex marriage, Argentina has pushed forwards on a lot of important issues and continued to fight for the LGBTQ rights. In 2012, the Argentinean government unanimously approved of the Gender Identity Law which grants adults sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy as a part their public or private health care plans. The law also allows for changes to gender, image, or birth name, on civil registries without the approval of a doctor or a judge. This social progressivism has trickled down to the primary health centers we visited where campaigns in the waiting room support ALL people regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation:

The woman in the first poster (featured with her partner) actually visited us to talk about LGBT rights in Argentina
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My favorite is this little poster with the caption "With Whoever You Want":
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While Argentina has allowed same-sex marriage, gays in the military, equal ages of consent, adoption, IVF rights, and the rights to change legal gender there are still a lot of important issues that NEED to be adressed including a lack of anti-discrimination laws and prohibition of blood donation. Below I found a chart in Wikipedia, that although limited, summarizes a lot of important legislation that has been enacted and needs to be enacted:
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There's still a long road ahead of us, but its refreshing to see a country as religious as Argentina be so progressive when it comes to these important civil rights issues.

Posted by Fabian1993 11:16 Archived in Argentina Tagged samesexmarriage marriageequality transgender legislation civilrights

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