A former manager of the Molinos Rio de La Plata food company has been arrested in a case investigating the kidnapping and disappearance of 23 workers during the era of state terrorism under Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
At 82 years of age, Emilio Parodi had no idea that his past was coming back to haunt him on Tuesday when Airport Security Police (PSA) officers arrived at his flat in Vicente López, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, at 10am to arrest him.
Parodi was human resources manager of the Molinos Río de La Plata firn during the dictatorship era and into the 1990s. Survivors and relatives of victims accuse him of giving a list to the military regime with the names of workers who were fighting for better working conditions and who were later kidnapped from one of its plants in Avellaneda, on the southern outskirts of the city.
On Tuesday night, La Plata Federal Judge Ernesto Kreplak questioned him about 23 disappearances. Parodi denied any knowledge of worker disappearances or kidnappings inside or outside the Avellaneda plant and said that he regretted the events. He said that he thought he remembered two or three of the victims, but that he was completely innocent.
The former manager was arrested on the orders of Kreplak, who is investigating the responsibility of businessmen in crimes against humanity, said the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) human rights organisation, a plaintiff in the case since 2014.
The judge has 10 working days to rule and in the meantime Parodi will remain under house arrest and in PSA custody, a judicial source said. Defence lawyers have already requested his release.
"Parodi is the first civilian of the Bunge & Born Group to be tried for crimes against humanity. Between 1976 and 1978 he was head of personnel and was later promoted to general manager of the company. He is accused of the kidnapping of 23 workers," CELS said on its Twitter account.
Founded in 1902, Molinos Río de La Plata was part of the powerful agri-food group Bunge & Born until 1999, when the company was sold to the Pérez Companc group.
The events occurred "on July 7, 1976, when the military entered the Avellaneda plant and went section by section kidnapping workers. Their names were on a list with Molinos Río de la Plata letterhead. They were delegates and activists who were demanding better working conditions,” wrote CELS.
The case was initiated in 2013 by a complaint from the children of disappeared workers. In 2019, plaintiffs and the prosecutor's office requested several company bosses and managers of the plant be indicted.
Since the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, a total of 1,168 people – including 200 civilians – have been convicted in 322 trials investigating crimes against humanity, according to the Human Rights Secretariat. A further 16 trials are ongoing.
This is not the first time that the Judiciary has put company executives accused of complicity with the dictatorship in the dock.
In December 2018, two former managers of the Ford motor company were convicted for their role as "necessary participants" in the illegal detention of 24 workers with trade union ties at a plant between 1976 and 1977. Those disappeared are still missing.
Some 30,000 people were disappeared during the 1976-1983 era of state, according to estimates from human rights organisations.
"The progress without delay of the cases for crimes against humanity is one of the priorities of this Human Rights Secretariat, particularly when civil and business actors are involved, since they are the ones that generate the greatest resistance in the Judiciary," said Human Rights Secretary Horacio Pietragalla Corti in a post on social media after Parodi's arrest was made public.