A federal court in Resistencia, capital of Argentina’s northern Chaco province, sentenced eight former army officers to life imprisonment May 16 for their role in the Margarita Belén massacre, named for the nearby town where 22 unarmed political prisoners were tortured and killed on Dec. 13, 1976. The 22—including several women who were raped before being shot to death—were members or sympathizers of the Montoneros guerilla group. The military had long maintained that the victims were armed rebels who had ambushed a patrol. But testimony and forensic investigations determined they had been rounded up unarmed and driven to the outskirts of town, where their remains were buried. Five of the bodies have still not been found.
The trial lasted nearly a year before bringing back convictions on charges of aggravated homicide. Family and friends of the victims gathered outside the courthouse, and broke into cheering as the sentences were announced. One of those convicted, retired colonel Horacio Losito (once hailed as a hero of the Falklands/Malvinas War), had already been sentenced to 25 years in 2008 for running a clandestine prison at the headquarters of Infantry Regiment 9 in Corrientes province. A veteran of the Chaco provincial police was acquitted for lack of evidence. (Diario Norte, Resistencia, La Nacion, Buenos Aires, El Argentino, Gualeguaychú, May 17; Iguazu Noticias, Puerto Iguazú, BBC News, May 16; Infovera, Santa Fe, April 13)
See our last post on Argentina’s “dirty war” legacy.