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November 26, 2014
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Massot tells judge charges are ‘slanderous’

Vicente Massot, the editor of the daily La Nueva Provincia, leaves a federal court in the City of Bahía Blanca after being grilled in connection with crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship. Luciana Bertoia reports on location for the Herald.
By Luciana Bertoia on location
Herald Staff

The owner of La Nueva Provincia spends four hours answering questions in Bahía Blanca

BAHÍA BLANCA — Vicente Massot, the owner of the La Nueva Provincia newspaper, yesterday spent more than four hours answering questions from federal Judge Álvaro Coleffi, who investigates crimes committed during the last dictatorship that ruled the country and had a deep impact in this city located in southern Buenos Aires province.

Although the head of the monopolistic newspaper in Bahía Blanca refused to answer any questions from prosecutors José Nebbia and Miguel Palazzani, they still provided more evidence to link the Massot family with the slayings of two printshop workers in 1976. The magistrate now has 10 working days to determine Massot’s legal situation.

At 7.30am, when it was still dark in Bahía Blanca, Massot appeared alongside his lawyer Rubén Diskin at the Alsina street courthouse building. He arrived 45 minutes earlier than scheduled. Minutes later, Judge Coleffi entered the building before talking to the Coast Guard and police officers who were blocking the streets to prevent activists from getting close to Massot.

A disturbing testimony

“That’s infamous and slanderous,” answered in an annoyed voice Massot when the judge read the statement provided by a lawyer who defends repressors in Bahía Blanca involving his family in the murder of Enrique Heinrich and Miguel Loyola, the two workers who led a three-week strike in 1975.

Earlier this week, lawyer Mauricio Gutiérrez appeared before prosecutors Palazzani and Nebbia.

“I know Loyola’s sister and I have been keeping a secret. That woman is suffering and I cannot take this information to my grave,” Gutiérrez stated. During the 1970s, Gutiérrez served as an auditor of the Fifth Army Corps, which is based in Bahía Blanca and commanded the repression in the region.

Gutiérrez now defends men accused of human rights violations. What nobody could doubt is that he is in good terms with the military.

While he was the auditor of the Corps, he met Acdel Vilas, who after commanding the so-called Independence Operation in Tucumán was sent to Bahía Blanca in 1976. Vilas told Gutiérrez about a meeting with Diana Julio de Massot, Vicente Massot’s mother, who asked him to take charge of Heinrich and Loyola. But Vilas, whose “work” was usually praised by La Nueva Provincia, refused. “It is not a military issue,” he replied. But Julio de Massot then said in a low voice to General Osvaldo Azpitarte, the head of the Fifth Corp: “We’ll have to drag them in on the side.”

Years ago, Vilas told a journalist: “Some newspapers prefer to kill their employees rather than paying a dismissal compensation.”

On June 30, 1976, when Heinrich and Loyola arrived home they were kidnapped and their corpses were found four days later in a place called “Cueva de los leones,” located 17 kilometres from the city of Bahía Blanca.

The role played by Massot

Massot only listened to questions from Judge Coleffi.

- Who made the decisions in the newsroom?

- Firstly, my mother and secondly, my brother. I was occasionally asked to participate in operational issues.

As court sources explained to the Herald, Massot wants to put all responsibilities on his late mother and brother Federico. However, there are minutes and documents that place Massot on the scene since 1974.

On June 14, 1974, Vicente Massot was included as one of the owners of La Nueva Provincia, a minute from a meeting confirms. Another one — signed by a notary public — notes that by September 1975, he would be in charge of any negotiations with workers.

There is a document that also claims Massot became the assistant director by that time and some minutes revealed that he was working at the newsroom in the last months of 1976.

Massot has been claiming that between the first days of 1976 and March 1977, he was in Buenos Aires City fulfilling compulsory military service and that he had no link with what was going on in La Nueva Provincia, the most important newspaper in Bahía Blanca.

Prosecutors also handed a tape with a five-hour interview to Massot, in which he also talks about his relationships with the military. Weeks ago, it was revealed that during a meeting held at the Argentine Centre for Foreign Relations (CARI), he admitted having taken part in the violence of the 1970s.

“I was not an innocent baby,” he said.

Massot is not only charged with Heinrich and Loyola’s murder but he is also accused of being part of a conspiracy with the Armed Forces to change society’s opinions. The author of Matar y Morir is also charged with covering up more than 35 killings and abductions.

Gratitude

By 1pm, Massot left the court building inside a police car.

“Murderer, genocidal perpetrator,” activists cried out. Minutes later, the crowd started clapping their hands when the prosecutors appeared. They looked exhausted but everyone repeated: “To sit Massot on the dock seemed like an impossible feat but here we are.”

The Herald asked Prosecutor Jorge Auat, who travelled from Buenos Aires City on Wednesday to take part in the hearing, about his impression of how the historic day had gone: “A great job,” he smiled.

@lucianabertoia

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