March 24th: The Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice – Paulina Vazquez, Argentina

The Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice falls on March 24th, a day when Argentines remember and commemorate the victims of the Dirty War.

The Dictatorship

The Dirty War, also known as the National Reorganization Process, took place in Argentina from 1976 to 1982.

The Process began when Rafael Videla, a military commander, replaced María Estela Martínez de Perón, the former president and wife of Juan Domingo Perón. He was not elected by a people’s vote, and he established a dictatorship.

This was a really rough time for Argentine people because his government violated many human rights, such as in the cases of the disappearance and deaths of thousands of people and the abduction of babies.

People were tortured and killed, and entire families wiped out with the justification that they had opinions and ideals (such as anarchism, socialism and communism) that threatened the government’s objective of a completely controlled country.

The Government’s Terrorism

Upon the minorities

The government at the time aimed to promote a single ideology and eliminate minorities, including religious and sexual minorities. That is why Jews, homosexuals and natives were specifically persecuted and treated with a special ferocity by the military, who also destroyed many shanty towns under the shadow of the 1978 World Cup.

Through child abduction

The Process dealt with the children in abducted families in sinister ways.

The pregnant women who gave birth while under hostage had to see their babies given to neighbours or to families with links to the military.

By the CONADEP report, there are plenty of witnesses who say they were forced to listen to the screams and cries of their babies to cause mental anguish.

No women received any kind of natal care. They had their babies in the loneliness of the Process, stuck in the kitchen or the cells where they were locked up. They also had to clean up after their own childbirth.

What happened to the missing people?

CONADEP, or the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, is the Argentine organization created by Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín with the aim of making a full investigation into the violations of humans rights during the dictatorship. It gathered many testimonials from abducted people into a book published in September 1984. This book, entitled “Nunca Más” (Never again) is the definitive report on the people who went missing during the Process. Its publication was supervised by Ernesto Sábato, an Argentine writer, and it was released in 1984 by Ricardo Alfonsín, Argentina’s first democratically elected president.

Cultural and educational politics

The Process also involved the government’s repression and terrorism using cultural and educative measures. They created a special group for the control and censorship of the educative, artistic and scientific productions and advances.

They burned piles of books from two recognised editorials, “Eudeba” and “Centro Editor de América Latina”.

Many schools within public universities were closed, such as the school of psychology, the school of letters and philosophy, the school of social work and the school of communication and media studies, along with libraries across the country.

They also prepared a list of books that were to be burned and students who read those books were harassed by the military. This list of books included the all of the books by the authors, Pablo Neruda, Karl Marx, Gabriel García Márquez, and many others.

The Resistance

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo Civil Association is a human rights organization focussing on finding the children who were abducted the war and reuniting them with their biological families.

Since its creation in Buenos Aires in Buenos Aires in 1976, it has been facing resistance from the government.

On March 24th last year in 2014, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government announced a new bill in honor of the group, featuring the iconic symbol of this group: the white scarf its members usually wear.

The white shawl of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo Civil Association painted on an Argentine sidewalk (source: Wikimedia Commons)

International conflicts

Even while the war was going on, Argentina took part in three international conflicts.

Operation Condor

This entailed coordination and mutual support between Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia (with the participation of United States) between 1970 and 1980.

Those who were considered to be responsible for subversive action against the installed military order were moved between these countries and persecuted, detained, interrogated and tortured.

This international aspect of the government’s terrorism remained secret, even as it gradually eliminated left-wing views from the population.

Problems with Chile

The Beagle conflict between Chile and Argentina was over the territorial rights of Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands.

In 1971, the president of Chile, Salvador Allende, and the leader of Argentina, Alejandro Agustín Lanusse, agreed to take this conflict to the United Kingdom, where an international court would enforce international law. Eventually, in 1972, London recognized the Picton, Nueva and Lennox islands as Chile’s, while Argentina got half of the channel and the corresponding islands.

The Argentine military junta considered this sentence null and pushed for war against Chile because of it. “Operation Sovereignty” was therefore launched by the commanders of the army on December 22 1978, but aborted hours later, following papal mediation on the conflict.

In 1984, Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín, who had been democratically elected president in that year, formally accepted the Pope’s intervention, signalling the end of the conflict with Chile.

(source: Wikipedia Commons)

Problems with the United Kingdom

The “Falklands War”, as it is known in the United Kingdom, or “Malvinas War” for Argentines, was a conflict over the territories and islands of the South Argentine sea. After April 1982, Great Britain emerged victorious as ruler of the islands, and this led to the end of the whole Reorganizational Process and re-establishment of democracy in Argentina.

Argentina still claims rights to the islands and remembers the veterans and fallen soldiers on April 2 every year, to honour their service on the islands.

End of the Process

The defeat in the war with the United Kingdom, the international pressure over human rights violations and the social unrest compelled the junta to give up power in 1983. The last military leader, Bignone, stepped down for new elections to be held.

In 1984, the radical party president, Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín, was democratically elected. He created the CONADEP to make a full inquiry and take responsibility for the crimes committed – crimes which are still studied today.

Personal Conclusion

As an Argentine citizen, and as a person, I do not consider what happened to be far removed from our own lives. All the people who lived this reality remember it as an awful and dark time with a lot of pain.

We are not willing to let it happen again, because we recognize it – and a nation that recognizes its history is more likely to not repeat its mistakes. We remember them and try to learn from them, celebrating our young democracy that has not been disrupted for 31 years and promoting inclusion and human rights.

For all those who left, for all those who are not here today, for all those who came back, for all those who gave their life in the promise of a better country: you all are in our memories and in our history. Thank you.

(source: Agencia de Noticias San Luis)

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