June 20, 2013
This lady is for burning
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
The burning issue (so to speak) at the end of the week seemed to be Justice Minister Julio Alak’s tasteless choice of venue in holding a mass barbecue to celebrate the end of 2012 at the former ESMA Navy Mechanics School (a concentration camp during the 1976-83 military dictatorship and now a memorial museum dedicated to that dark period) but perhaps Mothers of Plaza de Mayo leader Hebe de Bonafini’s revival of threats to storm the Supreme Court (first voiced 27 months ago) is more institutionally disturbing — both these news items raise the question of whether today’s human rights leaders have the priorities of their cause clearly in focus. It is certainly a supreme irony to see such prominent human rights figures as Bonafini and Estela Barnes de Carlotto of the Grandmothers or picket leader Luis D’Elía tying themselves up in knots to defend Alak.
If such champions of human rights could only stick to that agenda, they might see that the year 2012 so egregiously marked by Alak’s barbecue actually saw major progress in related trials, even if it received scant media coverage — both their speed and scope were enhanced as similar crimes against humanity in the same places were grouped together in a kind of “class action” instead of the previous individual cases with nearly 400 defendants in the dock and 86 convictions. This progress is the direct consequence of the high priority given to human rights by the Kirchner presidential couple as from 2004 but judging from the verbal convolutions of Bonafini and Carlotto to excuse Alak, it would seem that many human rights advocates have fallen into the confusion of making defence of the government enabling this progress an end in itself rather than a means towards their own original ends. Bonafini in particular seems to have lost her way — her initial outburst against the Supreme Court in 2010 was followed by a 2011 increasingly entangled in the “Shared Dreams” low-income housing scandal (when much of the 765 million pesos entrusted to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Foundation was embezzled), leading to her virtual ostracism throughout 2012. Now she seems to have decided to start 2013 on a new (and also old) tack by reviving her feud with the Supreme Court unless they rule favourably over the Broadcasting Law but what is the relationship between any of her obsessions of the last three years and human rights?
Surely at least in the human rights sphere, justice functioned satisfactorily enough in 2012 to deserve better than either Alak’s barbecue or Bonafini’s destructive tendencies.