Judge summons La Nueva Provincia’s Massot to testify
Judge Álvaro Coleffi yesterday summoned Vicente Gonzalo Massot, the owner of Bahía Blanca’s daily La Nueva Provincia, to appear in court for questioning about the murder of two printshop workers during the last military dictatorship that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.
The judge also banned the media mogul from leaving the country. The repression during the Junta’s reign struck deep in the heart of Bahía Blanca residents, the city in the south of Buenos Aires province where the Fifth Army Corps is headquartered. For years, La Nueva Provincia has been seen as a vocal supporter of the military.
Human rights activists in Bahía Blanca celebrated the news yesterday, saying they have long been waiting to hear Massot explain his alleged links with the dictatorship.
Substitute Judge Coleffi yesterday considered that prosecutors Miguel Ángel Palazzani and José Nebbia have provided enough evidence to call Massot to be questioned in court, as the magistrate explains in his resolution.
Massot will not be able to leave the country before his appearance in court, Coleffi also ruled. The judge based his decision on the “serious crimes that are being investigated and the need to guarantee the inquiry.”
Last year, Massot was charged with the murders of Enrique Heinrich and Miguel Ángel Loyola, two workers from La Nueva Provincia who were shot dead in 1976. The prosecutors also accused Massot of covering up at least 35 forced disappearances and of being part of a conspiracy with the heads of the last dictatorship to destroy a portion of the nation. In fact, prosecutors believe that Massot used his media group to carry out a psychological campaign that sought to justify the dictatorship crimes.
On March 18, Massot appeared before the judge but he only delivered a monologue, as the judge did not allow any questions from the prosecutors. Nebbia and Palazzani requested the judge arrest Massot and ban him from leaving the country.
Court sources told the Herald that Massot’s lawyer, Rubén Diskin, filed a writ to oppose the summons but it was not admitted. Diskin is Massot’s brother-in-law and he also represented other men accused of having committing crimes during the last dictatorship.
In the 1980s, Diskin represented Acdel Vilas, who first led the Operation Independence — ordered in 1975 by María Estela Martínez de Perón’s administration to annihilate left-wing groups operating in Tucumán province — and then headed the repression in Bahía Blanca.
On April 24, Massot will once again have to present himself at the court building alongside his lawyer at 8.15am.
Last month, Massot got to the court hours before he was scheduled to be there in what looked like an effort to avoid the press and human rights organizations that were protesting outside.
Last year, prosecutors accused Massot of being linked to the murders of the two printshop workers kidnapped on June 30, 1976, whose bodies were found in a place called Cueva de los Leones, on the banks of Route 33, 17 kilometres from the city of Bahía Blanca.
Massot spontaneously appeared before Judge Santiago Ulpiano Martínez, who refused to question the owner of the most influential newspaper in Bahía Blanca, considering there was not enough evidence to justify the accusation.
The appeals court, however, disagreed, and the judge had to be replaced with Coleffi, who seems to be willing to make the case move forward.
When the prosecutors issued their indictment, they argued Massot’s media group — which included the newspaper, a radio and a TV channel — was part of a conspiracy with the Army and the Navy aimed at annihilating part of the nation. To achieve that goal, the prosecutors believe, La Nueva Provincia played its particular role in propaganda in Bahía Blanca, and part of La Pampa and Río Negro provinces.
As it can be read in some of its editorials, La Nueva Provincia, a newspaper which forms part of the Association of Argentine Press Entities (ADEPA), not only supported the military government but also claimed that a military coup was necessary to “refound the Argentine nation.”