The Plaza, split in two on coup anniversary
Activists are divided as some march against corporations while others criticize Milani
Two rallies, both demanding truth and justice but with a clear division in their stance toward the government and its policies, exemplified the divide in the country’s human rights movement during the 38th anniversary of the coup that led to the last military dictatorship.
Both rallies ended in the same spot: the Plaza de Mayo, where the mothers of disappeared people have been demanding truth for decades.
The first rally called for by HIJOS, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo—Founding Line and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo targeted corporations, whereas the other demonstration called for by the Memory, Truth and Justice (MVJ in Spanish) organization accused the government of protecting perpetrators of genocide by having appointed César Milani as the head of the Army.
Members of the youth organization HIJOS — that gathers together children of disappeared people — had arrived at the iconic square by 2pm. Some of them were wearing T-shirts bearing three words: “Democracy or Corporations.”
The document read an hour before by members of the human rights organizations aligned with the Kirchnerite administration mainly focused on the corporations they consider a risk to democratic rule: the media, the judiciary and large economic groups.
The enemies “are no longer in the barracks. Now they are in the newsrooms,” said ruling Victory Front (FpV) Congressman Horacio Pietragalla, a son of disappeared parents who recovered his real identity in 2003.
“They use the paper they seized through the commission of crimes against humanity to write that the president is not going to finish her term in office,” highlighted Taty Almeida, an iconic member of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line.
The joint speech of the Grandmothers, Mothers and HIJOS appeared to largely echo the line taken by the Kirchnerite administration, which has been at loggerheads with the media since the 2008 stand-off between the government and the farming sector that intensified in 2009, when the Broadcasting Media Law was passed.
“The media monopolies have never said that, when they make reference to society’s murderers, they are actually talking about themselves,” another member of a human rights group said, making reference to the “lies published by dailies Clarín and La Nación.”
Justice in the spotlight
With Human Rights Secretary Martín Fresneda — who before taking office was a high-profile members of HIJOS from Córdoba province — on the stage, the groups also complained about the complicity of the courts and the delays currently facing several investigations.
They made particular reference to the case of the irregular transfer of the Papel Prensa newsprint company, which is now being handled by Judge Julián Ercolini. The Human Rights Secretariat has repeatedly expressed its concern over the case, which was filed in 2010 by late human rights secretary Eduardo Luís Duhalde while the government’s fight with Clarín was reaching a fever pitch.
The human rights activists also demanded the judiciary make progress in the complaint for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the 1982 Malvinas wars by the heads of the Armed Forces against conscripts and soldiers.
“In this square, where we demonstrated during the period of state terrorism, we keep on demanding the democratization of the judiciary,” a member of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo said, a request that was celebrated by the pro-judicial reform association Legitimate Justice, whose members were taking part in the demonstration.
The human rights organizations also urged the Criminal Cassation Court and the Supreme Court to accelerate the proceedings, something that is under analysis in the highest tribunal. Weeks ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti said that he was going to relaunch the commission made up by the three state branches to discuss the state of the cases for crimes committed during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.
“Now you have to decide on what side you will be,” Almeida said. “You have only one chance to be for or against monopolies.”
A name that divides
The march by human rights activists on March 24 has been a tradition year after year. In 2006, divisions between pro- and anti-government groups marked the last time the groups held a united rally on the anniversary of when the military junta rose to power in 1976.
This year what divided waters was Milani’s appointment as head of the army.
While Mothers, Grandmothers and HIJOS said that the judiciary must issue a decision on whether Milani is responsible for having committed crimes against humanity during the last dictatorship, the MVJ organization demanded his removal.
By 5.30pm the Association of Former Detained-Disappeared (AEDD), HIJOS from La Plata, Liberpueblo and several left-wing political parties entered Plaza de Mayo square. Enrique Fukman, a survivor from the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) clandestine detention centre, and Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Mirta Baravalle and Elia Espen headed the group while carrying a sign that read “Remove Milani.”
“We haven’t forgotten about the conscripts who died under Milani’s supervision,” the group said in a document, in reference to the case of Alberto Agapito Ledo, who disappeared in 1976 in Tucumán province while he was under Milani’s supervision. Milani had signed a document declaring Ledo a deserter when in fact he was forcibly disappeared.
Ledo’s sister and mother yesterday sent a letter, which was read in Plaza de Mayo.
“We have been seeking justice for 38 years but we don’t understand why the judge has not summoned Milani to testify if he has evidence,” Graciela Ledo and her mother Marcela Brizuela de Ledo wrote.