Monday, April 22, 2024

ARGENTINA | 24-03-2024 17:03

Argentines send message to Milei with march in memory of dictatorship

Huge crowds head to Plaza de Mayo to mark the 48th anniversary of the coup d'état that brought Argentina’s brutal 1976-1983 military dictatorship to power, resulting in the disappearance, exile and execution of tens of thousands of people in secret death camps across the country.

Tens of thousands of people marched Sunday to remember the victims of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship, marking the 48th anniversary of the coup that brought it to power and led to the disappearance and execution of tens of thousands of people. 

Sparking controversy, President Javier Milei's government launched a video calling for a “complete memory” of the era and objecting to the dictatorship’s historical treatment.

It was the first Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice since the inauguration of the far-right leader as president. Milei’s rhetoric has been slammed by human rights organisations as "denialist," given its view on the events that took place during that dark era.

"This is defended now and always," said María Gabriela Chávez, a 46-year-old teacher who came to the rally with her husband and children aged two and 10.

Pointing to the little boy, she added: "His godmother is a recovered granddaughter. They have to grow up with the idea that this can never happen again."

In downtown Buenos Aires, at the epicentre of the rally led by the Madres de Plaza de Mayo and the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo – who for decades have dedicated themselves to recovering the identities of the children and grandchildren of the disappeared – tens of thousands rallied carrying signs and slogans.


‘Complete history’

At midday, Milei’s government released a 13-minute video documentary entitled "Day of Memory for Truth and Justice. Complete," which began with an interview with a victim of the  left-wing ERP guerrilla movement in the 1970s.

The narrator of the short film, writer Juan Bautista Yofre, states that the story, as it is remembered, was designed in response to the economic interests of human rights organisations and the democratic governments that followed the dictatorship.

Both Milei and his vice-president, Victoria Villarruel – who is close to the military – question the 30,000 number of disappeared agreed upon by human rights organisations and claim that the real figure is closer to 8,700.

"Clearly there is a morbid curiosity about this date because it seems that the whole of the left will lose their lives if on March 24 they don't manage to get their message heard, which has been uninterrupted for 40 years," said Villarruel in an interview broadcast on Thursday on the TN news channel.

Former guerrilla fighter Luis Labraña, who was kidnapped by the military government, claims in the government video that the estimated number of people who were disappeared during the dictatorship was a lie created to win funding. "Thirty-thousand [disappeared] was false, I put the number there myself," he says in the video.

During his presidential campaign, Milei had said that in the 1970s there was "a war" in which "excesses" were committed, an argument that for many relativises the existence of a systematic plan to eliminate opponents that has been proven in hundreds of trials, in which more than 1,000 military personnel have been convicted of crimes against humanity. 

‘Today more than ever’

At the march in Plaza de Mayo, the crowd carried signs like "30,000 reasons to defend the homeland" and "30,000 of truth."

"It is necessary in this context, with all the violence being exercised by the current government, that people accompany these Madres and Abuelas who fought in their time. Today more than ever, we need to remember and take to the streets", said Mariana Gianni, a 31-year-old communicator, at the march.

The country's main trade union confederations joined the march this year, evidence of the impact of the severe economic crisis facing Argentina, which is suffering from 276 percent inflation year-on-year. More than half of the nation’s 46 million people live below the poverty line. 

The mobilisation comes days after H.I.J.O.S., a human rights organisation formed by children of the kidnapped and disappeared, denounced a brutal physical and sexual attack against one of its members by two individuals who allegedly scrawled ‘VLLC’ (referring to ‘Viva La Libertad Carajo”), Milei’s famous slogan, on a wall after the attack.

Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni said on Friday that the government hoped "that the justice system will move forward and that those responsible would indeed pay for their actions.”

Last week, Teresa Laborde Calvo, the daughter of a witness in the famous Trial of the Juntas, denounced receiving repeated threats. The Editorial Marea publishing house, which specialises in human rights, also said it had received a wave of "hate attacks on social networks." President of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo Estela Barnes de Carlotto also said in a radio interview that her phone had been tapped.

Forty-eight years after the coup, 1,173 people have been convicted of crimes against humanity in 316 sentences handed down at courts across the country.

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by Leila Macor & Tomás Viola, AFP


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