December 7, 2013
Tavani quits following controversial asado
In the middle of the controversy over the recent barbecues at the former ESMA clandestine detention centre, the president of the institution that runs the former detention centres in Buenos Aires City has resigned — and his departure seems to have exacerbated a crisis.
Eduardo Tavani, a lawyer, took office in October, 2012. Less than a year after his appointment, he decided to pack up his bags and leave the Instituto Espacio Memoria (IEM), a public institution that is under the purview of the Buenos Aires City government but has autonomy to work on issues relating to the rememberence of human rights abuses and is economically self-sufficient.
In his letter of resignation, Tavani laid out the reasons for his decision, saying he was stepping down after the criticism he received for attending a political rally held at Olimpo, a clandestine detention centre located in the neighbourhood of Floresta. On August 22, Justice Minister Julio Alak and Planning Minister Julio De Vido arrived at the former detention centre to launch the so-called Centre for the Access to Knowledge (NAC), which was designed to promote social participation in the centres through technology.
IEM is made up of human rights organizations, City Legislature lawmakers and iconic figures in the human rights movement, including sociologist Alcira Argumedo (Project South), human rights lawyer Beinusz Szmukler, journalist Stella Calloni, filmmaker Lita Stantic, survivor and former IEM director Ana María Careaga and Víctor Basterra, a former political prisoner who managed to take photographs of the ESMA clandestine detention centre that have been used against the perpetrators of human rights abuses.
On August 27, Tavani met with the council members, who criticized his participation in a rally organized by the national government, sources told the Herald. In what can be seen as a dispute between the City government and the Kirchnerite administration, some of the councillors said that Tavani was being used by national authorities.
“This was the chronicle of an announced resignation,” Agustín Cetrángolo, a member of HIJOS, an organization that groups together the children of disappeared parents, told the Herald. Cetrángolo said his group is not taking part in the management of the institute, but that they had a good relationship with Tavani, explaining the situation that the IEM is facing as “a product of the absence of a policy from Mauricio Macri’s government” when it comes to issues of rememberence.
For a couple of years, the IEM has been facing criticism from the people who worked in the former detention centres under its control: Olimpo, Atlético, Virrey Cevallos, Automotores Orletti and ESMA. This situation was mentioned by Tavani in his letter and confirmed by Joan Portos, a delegate from the Association of State Workers (ATE) at IEM.
“Tavani’s resignation makes it clear how things are working at the IEM. A very small group of people linked to human rights organizations, not their members, make all the decisions. We believe we are facing an institutional crisis and that our jobs could be in danger, because 70 per cent of us work under precarious conditions,” Portos told the Herald.
Today, hundreds of people working at different memorials throughout the country will gather at the ESMA in an unprecedented meeting to discuss their work at the former detention centres and their labour conditions.
The former secret detention centre on Avenida Libertador seems to be at the centre of the battles regarding rememberence in Argentina. The Association for Former Detainees- Disappeared (AEDD) complained that while they were on a guided tour, they came across members of HIJOS, who were preparing a barbecue inside the detention centre, where around 5,000 people were imprisoned during the last Argentine dictatorship.
Yesterday, FPV legislator Juan Cabandié, who was born at the ESMA and snatched away from his mother, joined the controversy.
The barbecues at the ESMA “made him happy,” reported La Nación. However, on his Twitter account, he said that those were not his words. Asked by the Herald, the politician who is running as head of the FpV ticket for the Lower House in the October midterms declined to comment.
Cetrángolo was clear when supporting the activities held at the former concentration camp.
“Giving a new meaning to these places does not mean changing their significance. They were clandestine centres that were used to perpetrate a genocide,” he said, adding: “We are trying to promote activities that appeal to the youth. People have the right to decide what to do with these places. We carry out several projects in order to explain what state terror was.”
Enrique Fukman, a survivor from the ESMA and a member of the AEDD, complained because there has not been an official response to their complaint.
“In January, when we reported the first barbecue, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said there would be even more barbecues there — now, silence,” he told the Herald. “This silence means they refuse to discuss what to do at these sites while they continue to trivialize what happened to us and our comrades there.”