Argentina: denialism amid ‘dirty war’ revelations

In the wake of US declassification of new documents related to Argentina's "dirty war," President Mauricio Macri is facing angry protests over dismissive comments on the bloody era. On Aug. 1, the White House released some 1,000 newly declassified documents on US relations with Argentina's military dictatorship in the 1970s and early '80s. Many indicate US accommodation of the regime during the period of extreme repression. In one passage highlighted by the Washington Post, national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in a March 1979 memo to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance: "When we take actions toward Argentina, which are interpreted as punitive, we not only enrage the right-wing ideologues, we also arouse the business sector and the media in the US."

From 1976 to the end of the dictatorship in 1983, the military junta oversaw what they euphemistically called the "National Reorganization Process"—in which some 30,000 suspected left-wing dissidents were killed or "disappeared," with many more subject to such abuses as assault, torture, rape and baby theft. Previously declassified US documents particularly pointed to the role of Henry Kissinger in "green-lighting" this repression.

But the reckoning with US complicity in the violence has ironically coincided with wave of denialism from Argentine officials. Darío Lopérfido, culture minister for the municipal government of Buenos Aires and a close political ally of Macri, closest political allies, said earlier this year that "there were not 30,000 people disappeared in Argentina," implying the number was arrived at in a corrupt process between human rights leaders and post-dictatorship governments. After the new document release, Macri himself weighed in on the numbers controversy, saying he does "not know whether the number is 9,000 or 30,000 or something else," and that arguing about the figure is "pointless."

The comment sparked angry protests. On Aug. 12, Macri was shouted down at a public appearance in Mar del Plata by protesters chanting "Macri, basura, vos sos la dictadura!" (Macri, trash, you are the dictatorship!). His convoy was also pelted with stones, and he subsequently announced that he will now travel in an armored van to public events. The group Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Forgetfulness and Silence (HIJOS), formed by the children of the "disappeared," was accused of in the car-pelting incident, but denied involvement. (InSerbia News, Aug. 17)

Taty Almeida of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo human rights group said Macri "contnues harassing" survivors by questioning the history. "He cannot say that there is not a sure quantity of disappeared. Here there was an internationally recognized genocide and state terrorism."

Nobel-winning rights advocate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel also took issue with Marci's use of the term "dirty war," which is generally not used in Argentina today. "There was no dirty war," he said. "There was a brutal repression imposed by the doctrine of national security. I recommend that the president take a course on rights and human dignity." (InfoBae, Aug. 11)