30 September 2006

Hebe de Bonafini's hate

As you may remember from a previous post, Jorge Julio López, a key witness in the trial of Dirty War criminal Miguel Etchecolatz, disappeared 13 days ago. Nobody knows whether he's dead or alive, and many fear that he's been kidnapped and killed by the same people who used to do that back during the dictatorship.

Hebe de Bonafini, co-founder and president of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, is an angry woman. Two of her sons were abducted by the military. Together, even during the dangerous years of the Proceso, the Mothers have demanded that their children be returned to them and that those responsible for their disappearance are brought to justice. They have found many and achieved a lot; for most Argentinians, the Mothers are heroes. Bonafini, on the other hand, has become increasingly radicalized. Ironically, she's conceded one of the points that the military made back then to justify their crimes: that the Dirty War was indeed a war. Bonafini believes that her sons (and the other mothers' children) are to be avenged and that they were not victims, but heroes, soldiers for a good cause.

Most of the "disappeared" were never violent. They were for human rights, or they were vocal and campaigned for things like free bus passes, or the right of forming labour unions. They spoke against the government. Some were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The dictators wanted the populace to feel that "order" would be upheld at any cost, and used terror to subdue those who were dared doubt that "order". They led the people to see their crimes, their gross violations of human rights, as the unavoidable excesses of war (a war between them and the leftist insurgency). Thus, the doctrine of the two demons.

Bonafini doesn't speak for the innocent victims of state terrorism anymore. She decided that the disappeared are worthy only if they fought against the dictatorship, if they were militants. A few days ago she said that Jorge Julio López is not "a typical desaparecido", because he was not a militant. She claimed that López "should be investigated", that "he lived in a neighbourhood of policemen and his brother was a policeman". She believes this was a fake disappearance. For some reason she's become an unconditional supporter of Néstor Kirchner (whose commitment on Dirty War issues is indeed remarkable), and thinks this farce was staged by people who want to discredit the government for its human rights policies.

If it were like that, of course, it has worked, since already La Nación is gloating over the ramblings of apocalyptical politician-nutcase Elisa Carrió, who effectively claims that K is guilty of López's disappearance because he didn't give him protection (La Nación quoting Carrió and leftist intellectuals to criticize Kirchner is roughly akin to The Wall Street Journal quoting Noam Chomsky against anti-competitive business practices).

Bonafini's sayings were met with astonishment by fellow human rights activists: "I find it regrettable that somebody like Hebe sets out to denigrate a witness. I can't believe she's saying those words", said Nilda Eloy, also a former illegal detainee and torture victim. López's lawyer also added that it was precisely because of López's familiarity with the policemen in his area that he could identify so many of them as participants of the crimes in the detention center where he was held.

All in all, it's sad that a person who did so much for a good cause like Bonafini ends up like this. It's not that surprising though, considering she was also the one who said she felt "happy" when she heard news of the 9/11 attacks, and that she was satisfied when John Paul II was about to die because he would soon "rot in hell". Argentina has suffered a lot, and we've been witness to a lot of cases of victims turned bitter. Anger and hate may sometimes be the only source of strength for otherwise desperate people, but they're the worst possible moral guides. Bonafini has, once again, proved it.

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