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Kirchnerites divided over Milani’s promotion

Milani’s promotion brings more than a headache to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
By Luciana Bertoia
Herald Staff
Some CFK allies back CELS position as the debate over the naming is reignited

César Milani’s promotion as the head of the Army not only opened a rift between the government and some human rights organizations but also divided waters within Kirchnerism.

Horacio González, the National Library director, opened the debate by publishing an article in the daily Página/12, expressing his concern over Milani’s promotion. The Herald asked some other Kirchnerite intellectuals and could learn that Milani is a topic which strongly disturbs them.

Eduardo Jozami, who heads the Cultural Centre Haroldo Conti located at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) memorial, told the Herald that he strongly supported the Centre for Legal and Social (CELS) position, whereas philosopher Ricardo Forster tried to follow the Kirchnerite script, saying that until Milani is proven guilty, there is nothing to say about his promotion.

Divided waters

The appointment of a man accused of being involved in crimes against humanity during the last Argentine dictatorship might end up having too high a cost for a government that has made the fight for human rights a banner of its tenure and also has made human rights organizations as one of its pillars. Something which seems to have fallen into oblivion after Kirchnerite lawmakers passed Milani’s promotion at the Upper House of Congress on Wednesday, dismissing the reports filed by CELS, the organization headed by Kirchnerite journalist Horacio Verbitsky.

The human rights group founded in 1979 provided evidence to show that Milani signed in 1976 a minute declaring conscript Alberto Agapito Ledo a “deserter”, when in fact he had been forcibly disappeared during the so-called Independence Operation in Tucumán province. They also involved Milani in the abductions of Ramón Alfredo Olivera and of Plutarco Schaller and his son, Oscar Plutarco Schaller, which was also confirmed by Gabriela Schaller to the Herald last week. Furthermore, CELS explained in its last report that the Engineers Battalion Number 141 — where Milani served during the military regime — had a central role in La Rioja province to direct the repression in that province and that it also operated as a clandestine detention centre, although Milani said he did not know that fact.

“I strongly support the CELS’ position,” Jozami, a former political prisoner during the dictatorship who currently heads the Cultural Centre Conti which reports to the national government, told the Herald yesterday.

“CELS has always provided the information for the promotions and has always made justified presentations,” he added.

However, Jozami declined to comment about how the idyllic relationship between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the human rights movement could be affected after Milani’s promotion.

“We’ll see how it develops,” he concluded.

As happens within Kirchnerism, human rights organizations too are divided. Iconic leader of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Hebe de Bonafini publicly supported Milani. Organizations such as the Association for Former Detained-Disappeared (AEDD), the Argentine League for Human Rights (LADH) and the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights (APDH) echoed CELS opposition, as did Nobel Peace Prize Winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Nora Cortiñas, a member of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Founding Line. That organization and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have remained silent about Milani’s promotion, aiming to keep a balance between an appointment that they do not support and a government which has done much to take perpetrators of dictatorship crimes to court.

“The Milani issue is part of today’s rift in Argentina,” summarized philosopher Ricardo Forster, who was one of the ruling Victory Front (FpV) candidates in October’s midterm elections in Buenos Aires City.

“It seems a paradox. On the one hand, we have a government which has built up a human rights policy. On the other hand, you have others criticizing who had called for reconciliation with the perpetrators. It’s an ambiguous situation,” he added.

Asked by the Herald, Forster declined to refer to the presentation filed by CELS, only stating: “Milani has passed three promotions and nothing has been said before.”

“If it’s proven that Milani committed any crime during the dictatorship, he should step aside,”he admitted.

Other detractors?

These are not the only Kirchnerite intellectuals or leaders who have expressed their concern over Milani’s appointment.

Months ago, Kirchnerite lawmaker Jorge Taiana told the Herald that he supported CELS’ position, as well. It was also said that former senator Daniel Filmus would not have voted for Milani’s promotion if it had been discussed earlier this year.

All in all, it seems that Milani’s promotion has been a Pyrrhic victory for Kirchnerism, which could end up jeopardizing one of the government’s main bastions: the defence of human rights.

@LucianaBertoia

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