September 23, 2014
Same human rights, a new consensus?
After a decade of highly polarized politics and when most people might expect the battle lines to be hardening as an electoral year draws closer, much of the recent news in Argentina has been breeding rare moments of national consensus. This impression of peace breaking out should not be exaggerated (especially after the opposition’s Senate walkout yesterday) but the fact remains that weeks of anger by a majority (if far from unanimity) against the vulture funds are now followed by an even wider joy over the wholly unexpected identification of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo leader Estela Barnes de Carlotto’s grandson. While most opposition politicians remain critical of the government’s negotiating strategy and rhetoric concerning the foreign debt litigation in New York, they often repudiate the globally destructive tactics of the vulture funds and Manhattan district judge Thomas Griesa’s perverse ruling blocking the payment to bondholders. The reactions to the Carlotto grandson were mostly positive, however, greeting it as the good news it was with little compulsion to add words of criticism. Even if nothing should be expected from those who are always covertly advocating impunity.
Beyond the personal vindication of Carlotto’s struggle, this news could not come at a much better time for the human rights movement because this takes it back to basics after a difficult year. Despite all the huge advances for human rights in what has been a genuinely “won decade” on this front, there has always been a latent tension between an idealistic movement and a government strongly supportive of its cause but flawed in other respects. Recently this tension has come more into the open with certain developments contaminating the government’s human rights commitment — the scandals hitting the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo housing scheme and especially the insistence on promoting the controversial General César Milani to the Army helm (which many human rights activists felt obliged to swallow out of gratitude and loyalty). Carlotto’s good news makes huge strides toward reinforcing the credibility of the cause by re-asserting its core values. Self-congratulation is fully in order without forgetting that (as Albert Einstein said) human rights is an eternal struggle never finally won or (more concretely) that while 114 children of missing parents have now been found, some 400 still remain to be located.
Are these seeds of consensus purely circumstantial or can something be made out of this?