25 September 2006

One more desaparecido?

I would've liked to resume my posting, after a nice spring weekend and my birthday, in a lighter tone, but this is important. For background, it suffices to know that Argentina, between 1976 and 1983, was ruled by military juntas, and both the military and the police worked to persecute anyone who might be a dissident, and others who had nothing to do, to create fear and obedience in the population.

More than a week ago, Julio López, a 77-year-old retired mason who was kept in prison and tortured back then, vanished without a trace. López had testified in the trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, a police officer that kidnapped, tortured and murdered at least six prisoners. This despicable being was sentenced to a life term, but he's not alone. López's family, the government of Buenos Aires and many human rights organizations believe that López might've been kidnapped by people sympathetic to, or allied with, Etchecolatz, who have kept a lower profile. Many senior police officers in today's Argentina were in charge during the dictatorship. Some were forced to retire, many during the "purges" prompted by President Kirchner since he took charge. Many are angry that, after 30 years of impunity, they're being prosecuted again. They've got contacts and they've joined ranks, or so it's believed. They have voices in the right-wing press, among the conservatives of the Catholic Church, in some military circles, even in Congress. They might have "disappeared" Julio López.

Today Felipe Solá, governor of the province of Buenos Aires, told the press that López was "the first desaparecido of democracy", the first person to "vanish" in the context of a trial against the criminals against humanity that used to run Argentina.

López suffers from Parkinson syndrome, and might have emotional problems, which could've caused some form of post-traumatic shock, especially after he was forced to revive his days in detention. Given the fact that he didn't have a lot of money on him, and that his face has been broadcast all over, as days go by it's increasingly likely that he isn't simply lost. Nobel Peace Prize and activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel has stated that López might've been kidnapped by a group of police officers relieved by provincial Security Minister León Arslanián, some of which have been seen scorting Juan Carlos Blumberg during his marches demanding tougher criminal laws (which I told you about a while ago).

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