Human Rights Violations in Argentina during the 70s Military Coup
14.03.2013 - 14.03.2013 62 °F
"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).
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.
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.
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.
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.