November 24, 2014
Who killed father Mugica?
Conspiracy theories tend to attract the general public and especially journalists of the “Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?” school because they are both more entertaining and simpler than the more complex truth — although their entertainment value can also stem from gratuitously complicating the basic facts by trying to convert every high-profile death into an Agatha Christie novel. Thus in the recent revival of interest in the 1995 fatal helicopter crash of Carlos Menem Junior, when people choose between a known speed freak running into a power line because he was buzzing his bodyguards on the road and an 800-million-dollar drug-trafficking intrigue involving Pablo Escobar (even though he died 16 months before the presidential offspring), they tend to prefer the latter. And in the immediate wake of the 40th anniversary of Father Carlos Mugica’s slaying (marked with a monument and an official ceremony), some find the accepted version of a Third World slum priest being slain by the ultra-right terrorist Triple A too predictably easy an explanation of events — they have therefore concocted an elaborate theory whereby a Mugica previously ambiguous on political violence turned against it after the two Peronist election victories of 1973 and thus became the first victim of the Montoneros following their May Day parting of the ways with then President Juan Domingo Perón.
To insist that all the evidence overwhelmingly points to Mugica having been slain by the Triple A (however distressing to the imaginative) should not be understood as a defence of the Montoneros because they have plenty of other crimes to answer for — thus they would find it far harder to deny the 1973 murder of CGT secretary-general José Ignacio Rucci. Not content with claiming that Mugica was slain by the Montoneros for betraying their revolutionary ideals (which sounds at least superficially plausible), some of the conspiracy theorists try to go one step further and present it as highly illogical that Triple A leader José López Rega could have ordered Mugica slain. But literally anything was possible with such a deranged extremist as López Rega in those tortured times.
These theories do not help our understanding of the “dirty war” in any way — if the Montoneros did not kill Mugica, they would still have plenty to answer for while if they did, the sum total of their crimes would still pale when measured against state terrorism. We have far too much “narrative” in our far less violent present (whatever some might say) without projecting it into the past.