Workers accuse MacriSunday, January 5, 2014
‘Memorial Park now at risk’
Buenos Aires City government’s memory policy is currently at the centre of a storm.
Workers from the so-called Memorial Park have been reporting that Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s administration wants to “empty” the memorial for the victims of the last dictatorship located on the banks of the River Plate and also announced that they were considering calling a demonstration for next week.
Macri’s relationship with human rights organizations has never been a close one but this time it seems to be reaching a breaking point.
On January 2, the City’s Under-Secretary for Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism Claudio Avruj reported that people working at the Memorial would not receive any salary increases. According to the workers, Avruj said that if they did not feel comfortable with the decision, they could resign and leave.
“Ninety-eight percent of those who work at the Memorial Park are independent workers who pay self-employed taxes, having no labour rights. This means a new step towards emptying of the institution and its closure,” the workers said in a press release.
Iván Wrobel, the workers’ shop steward, explained to the Herald that every year they have to negotiate their contracts but this year seems to be worse than ever. He also said that the majority of the staff working at the Under-Secretariat for Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism face a similar situation due to their precarious labour conditions.
“We cannot continue working in these conditions,” Wrobel said. He said that they were in touch with human rights organizations, which yesterday complained about Macri’s decision.
The Herald tried to contact Avruj but he was not available to comment, as his spokeswoman explained.
Workers will meet tomorrow and will decide if they call for a demonstration to the City’s Secretariat building this week. Everything indicates that they will be joined by human rights organizations.
“This is a crime that affects our children’s memory,” Taty Almeida, a member of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line told the state-run news agency Télam. She promised to join any of the initiatives decided by the workers.
Some others expressed their support in the social networks.
“We express our solidarity with the workers from the Memorial Park, who have organized to struggle against Macri’s intention to empty the institution,” members of HIJOS, the organization that groups children of disappeared parents, wrote in their Twitter account.
Victory Front (FpV) Congressman Horacio Pietragalla, who recovered his real identity thanks to Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, also condemned the situation.
“We say no to the closure of the Park and to the maltreatment of its workers,” he also wrote.
Former senator Daniel Filmus was another Kirchnerite who opposed to the situation.
In the nineties, in times of the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws — which prevented those who committed crimes during the last dictatorship from being taken to court — the human rights organization started thinking of building a Memorial to remember the thousands of disappeared people that the military regime left.
In 1998, the City’s Legislature passed the bill that promoted the creation of the Memorial, which was inaugurated in 2007.
The Memorial Park is breathtaking for every visitor. It rises up facing the Río de la Plata, because many of the victims of the dictatorship’s death squads were thrown to the river in the so-called “death-flights,” reported in 1995 by former Navy officer Adolfo Scilingo, which were made public by journalist Horacio Verbitsky.
The names of the victims have been placed on four steles covered with 30,000 plaques, along a route that begins at one of the squares and ends at the coastline esplanade overlooking the river. For the relatives of the victims, it is not only shocking to read the thousands of names but also to face the waters.
There is also an information centre, which is devoted to recovering the identity of the missing ones.
Among human rights organizations, there has been an agreement that art, research and public meetings as the ones held in the Memorial Park are essential to keep the memory of the disappeared alive and also just to have a place where to go to remember their loved ones, that is why the possibility of its closure strikes a chord deep in the heart of the human rights movement.