December 7, 2013
‘Attacking Milani is attacking rights policy’
Ruling Victory Front Lower House candidate Victoria Montenegro talks to the Herald
Victoria Montenegro is running for a seat at the Lower House of Congress on the ruling Victory Front (FpV) ticket for Buenos Aires City. Her presence on the party list can be seen as part of a banner Kirchnerites have been flying for the last decade: the struggle for human rights.
Born in 1976, she was snatched from her teenage parents in Lanús, Buenos Aires province, in a raid carried out days before the military coup took place installing the country’s last dictatorship.
According to the information she has been able to get her hands on, Montenegro was looked after by a group of nuns who were responsible for distributing children who had been snatched during the dictatorship. Eventually, Herman Tetzlaff, one of the chiefs in the clandestine detention centre known as “El Vesubio,” took her as his own.
Though Victoria did not support then-president Néstor Kirchner’s human rights policies, now she is one the most committed defenders of the “national project” President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner leads. But she is not the only one.
“There are many of us who joined the FpV because Néstor said he was part of our parents’ generation and he also apologized on behalf of the state for the crimes committed during the dictatorship, reopening the trials so that we can see some justice for those of us who are still missing,” Montenegro told the Herald in an interview at the City headquarters of the Kirchnerite organization Kolina.
For Montenegro, the trials against the perpetrators of genocide were an indispensable tool to put together the puzzle of her identity. But she acknowledges that she did not like some of the actions taken by Néstor Kirchner.
“I saw the rally held at the ESMA former clandestine detention centre in 2004 on TV. I was not there. I was not Victoria yet,” she says. In fact, her identity was re-established in 2000 thanks to the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo but, for her, that was not an immediate process.
“I was ashamed of being the daughter of ‘subversive parents’ and I remember when Néstor read a poem during the rally, a poem I could not believe that a ‘subversive’ could think and write such beautiful things,” she adds.
What’s in a name?
Recent years for her meant the possibility of reconstructing her identity, to use the name her parents had given her: Victoria.
“In 2008, I started using my real name, although I had previously started helping the Grandmothers, but for me ‘politics’ was a rude word,” she highlights.
But she changed and so did her children. In 2000, when she was discovered by the human rights organization, she was already the mother of three children, who now are 20, 18 and 14. “They are older than her grandparents used to be,” she explains as her eyes tear up.
“My appropriators gave me a strict ideological formation and so I had done the same with my children,” Montenegro says. “When I understood that killing people even though they were activists was not right, I had to explain that to my children.”
When she was not called Victoria, she was María Sol, the name her appropriators had given her and she used to spend her holidays in different military garrisons in Buenos Aires province. That was the only time she could share with Tetzlaff and she remembers having heard him talking about the raids he led during the military regime.
“It was almost impossible to think that those whose homes he broke into and those who he beat were your parents and that they were so young. My mum was 18 and my dad, 20,” she says with a desperate tone.
“My mother was a girl and she had had a baby 10 years before. Tetzlaff was two-metres tall and weighed 150 kilos and he was there, to harm her,” she adds.
Her three children are activists and every March 24 they take part in demonstrations wearing a T-shirt with their grandfather’s face on it.
What was your reaction to the incident involving Juan Cabandié (son of disappeared parents who heads the FpV ballot for BA City)?
Well, they were capable of equating a misdemeanour with a crime against humanity. It’s worrying that they are bastardizing something so painful...
There has been little discussion about the role played by the Border Guard. Do you agree?
The worst thing of all is a security force carrying out counter-intelligence tasks and following the orders of a person dismissed from the force (Raúl Maza). A security force has a certain role: they are not judges, prosecutors nor
Are you acknowledging that there are certain areas of the forces that the Kirchnerite administration cannot govern?
Though we took office 10 years ago, we have to understand that there have been decades when unnatural things were naturalized. When we talk about crime, we always talk about minors but we don’t say that the police frees certain zones, the role of the judiciary and of certain politicians that are part of the “old politics.” That’s a complex situation but what happens with institutional violence is what happens with gender violence. it’s not something new. It’s something that is currently being discussed and we are taking decisions. This process is going to take a long time. There is resistance but not in all foces.
After the PASO primaries there has been a hard-line narrative in the FpV. If you took office, would you vote for lowering the age of criminal resonsibility?
And why don’t BA City residents vote for you?
We, porteños, are peculiar. It has always been a very conservative city but we won a good amount of votes at the PASO primaries.
César Milani’s appointment as Army chief is to be discussed next week. Do you want it to be passed?
I don’t know. We cannot dismiss officials due to reports in the media.
Milani’s human rights record is questioned in La Rioja’s Never Again and in the archive of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)...
He might have signed dozens of desertion files that year. We must find out how much he knew about that particular case. When he took office, he gave a committed speech and he also has something that cannot be forgiven by the Army’s élites: he is the son of a Peronist under-officer. In fact, attacking Milani, Juan and the genetic database is attacking the government’s human rights policy.
Don’t you consider the possibility that his appointment was a
When he was promoted, there was no report. We want justice and truth for that comrade (conscript Alberto Ledo). If Milani was responsible, he should be tried. But we also have to consider where a report is coming from.