07 August 2008

Shadows of the dictatorship

Argentina's last dictatorship ended in 1983, but for several reasons the criminals that took part in it were not punished appropriately. Now that the trials have been resumed, some cases have been re-opened, and new horrible deeds are unearthed every time. It's no wonder that the criminals resist.

Yesterday the guilty sentence was passed for four of five military defendants on a trial for crimes against humanity held in Corrientes. Cecilia Pando, an activist that defends the tactics of state terrorism employed by the dictatorship, was there with a group of supporters; as the sentence was read, she snapped and started yelling insults and threats all around, accusing Human Rights Secretary Luis Eduardo Duhalde of being a "terrorist", sliding her index finger across her neck (the throat-slitting gesture) and shouting "I'm going to kill you with my own hands".

Pando is the wife of a retired major, Rafael Mercado, and her group calls itself the "Association of Friends and Relatives of Political Prisoners of Argentina". They believe the military defended the country against terrorism and the prospect of a leftist dictatorship, and now they're treated as dirt because the current government is made up of former terrorists and their allies. This claim was echoed by the professional torturer and murderer Luciano Benjamín Menéndez — "the terrorists of the '70s are in power" — after his sentence (a life term) was dictated, last July.

There's a small but well-connected group of people who are convinced of the justice of the military cause — who believe the desaparecidos were only a few, that most of them actually fled to Europe and let their families play the victim, that everyone who has testified about the kidnappings, the gruesome torture sessions, the summary executions is lying or deluded or paid by the government that "persecutes" the country's "heroes".

They don't state this out loud all the time, of course. More often, they admit that crimes ("excesses") were committed fighting the terrorists, but justify it by saying "it was a war". They always speak of national reconciliation, unification and peace, which for them means forgetting the past and forgiving the criminals even as they unrepentantly walk down our streets — not incidentally, the usual line of the Catholic Church.

Another usual complaint is that of unfairness — placing themselves on one side of the "theory of the two demons" and claiming that, if the military must be punished, then so must the "subversives". In reality, of course, many who were tortured or killed by the dictatorship were just activists, and the actual terrorist organizations were never even close to subvert (i.e. overthrow) the government. They were used as a convenient argument for the military to seize power and "restore the order", and then as a scapegoat for the dictatorship's own failed policies.

Why am I giving so many details? Well, part of the public opinion has become more receptive of some of these claims because they don't like the Kirchners' idea of human rights. You know I don't like the Kirchners at all, and I don't believe they have the marvelous "human rights policy" they often congratulate themselves of. What they have is a desire for revenge. They were leftist militants in the 1970s; Néstor Kirchner has a background of closeness to the leftist-Catholic-Peronist terrorists of Montoneros, though he wasn't in the organization himself; there's plenty of evidence he views the world as a battleground, with him on the "good" side; his words when he speaks of the past show his deep (and broad, and therefore often misguided) resentment and intolerance against those who are not of his own ideological flavour. One can understand and sympathize with that up to a certain point, but a president or the leader of an influential majority should be above that, for the good of the people.

Kirchner's desire for revenge turned out to be a catalyzer for better things: by fighting the conservative Supreme Court he was stuck with at the beginning of his term, he allowed for an independent Court to be assembled; by fighting the laws and pardons that kept the dictatorship's criminals from being investigated, he let justice work as it should. That removal of obstacles was about the extent of Néstor Kirchner's policy on human rights, and if he had stepped down as soon as his work was done (about three years into his term), he would've been remembered as a great president by most Argentinians, including myself. But because he showed his true colours, he gave the dictatorship's sympathizers a measure of credibility. Ah, I suppose it's too much to ask for a human being in such a high place to be OK on all accounts.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:28

    Thanks for this post. New to your blog and glad to see someone tackling the subject. I've often questioned the veracity of claims from the right that the government is made up of "montoneros," who - as it is often alleged - should be on trial just as the militares are. Obviously, there is a significant difference between being a supporter of a left-wing political organization and being convicted of murdering people in a "terrorist" attack. That being said, I wonder if any of these claims are actually based on anything more than just hyperbole.

    Reading some of the commentaries in publications like La Nacion, you might suspect that functionaries such as Carlos Kunkel and Rafael Bielsa had verifiably taken part in "terrorist" acts in the 70s. Is there any truth to these accusations or is the only aspect of this that is based in reality the fact that they may have been part of student organizations etc. that in theory supported left-wing causes and/or violence...?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.