Argentina Again Remembers Its US-Backed Coup

After a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country to pay homage to the victims of a seven-year dictatorship.

Nov. 18, 2010: One of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo demonstrating in Buenos Aires. (Alessandro Bomfim, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Tanya Wadhwa
Peoples Dispatch

March 24, 2022, marked 46 years since the U.S.-backed civic-military coup overthrew the left-wing government of President Isabel Martínez de Perón in Argentina (July 1974-March 1976).

The coup installed the bloodiest dictatorship in the history of the country, led by the junta of General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, Brigadier-General Orlando Ramón Agosti and Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri from March 1976-December 1983. The dictatorship period was marked by state terrorism and grave human rights violations.

During over seven years of dictatorship, Argentine security forces, along with right-wing death squads such as Triple A, hunted down anyone believed to be associated with socialism, left-wing Peronism, or the Montoneros movement.

It is estimated that over 30,000 students, activists, trade unionists, writers, journalists, artists and any citizens suspected of being left-wing activists were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared. The military junta silenced any political or ideological dissidents, even those seen as antithetical to its neoliberal economic policies.

The armed forces even seized their property and their babies. According to available data, around 500 children, who were detained with their militant parents or born in captivity, were appropriated as war trophies by the repressive forces and handed over to military families, sold or abandoned in state institutions.

Collections of photos from families whose children and grandchildren had disappeared. The sign reads: “The mothers and fathers of the stolen children for whom the Grandmothers have been searching since 1977.” (Giselle Bordoy WMAR, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

In the years following the return of democracy, government authorities took some steps in order to honor the victims and ensure that those horrible times are never repeated.

In 2002, the Argentine Congress declared that this tragic day would be remembered as the National Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice, with the purpose of making it a day of reflection on recent history. In 2006, it was declared a public national holiday in Argentina.

For over three decades, every year, on March 24, hundreds of thousands of citizens, relatives of the disappeared people, members of social movements, human rights organizations and left-wing political parties march to the Plaza de Mayo in the capital Buenos Aires to commemorate the victims of the last dictatorship and demand justice for the crimes against humanity committed by the state during that period.

Memory Day 2016 in Buenos Aires, people carry a flag with images of those who disappeared after the 1976 coup. (Banfield, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

This March 24, after a pause of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, once again, hundreds of thousands of Argentines took to the streets across the country to pay homage to the victims and their revolutionary spirit.

In Buenos Aires, wearing white scarfs, shouting “memory, truth and justice,” members and sympathizers of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the human rights organizations that have been at the forefront of the struggle to justice for and truth about their disappeared relatives, marched from 9 Julio Avenue to Plaza de Mayo, carrying a large flag with the photos of the 30,000 victims. Over one hundred thousand people flooded the plaza and surrounding streets.

Massive demonstrations and marches were held in the cities such as Santa Fe, Rosario, Salta, Cordoba, Tucumán, Neuquén, among others.

Human rights activist and one of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Nora Cortiñas, addressed the multitudinous crowd and delivered the annual speech prepared by human rights organizations, such as the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons, the Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice against Oblivion and Silence (HIJOS), among others.

“After two years, we met again at the March 24 march. We embrace our Grandmothers and Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and, one more year, we reaffirm the fight for memory, truth and justice.”

“Forty-six years after the genocidal coup, and two years after taking care of ourselves, we march again to the Plaza de Mayo, our Plaza, as it is being done today throughout the country. Once again, we arrive with the photos of those who were victims of the genocide. Their absences continue to hurt us, but we bring high their flags, their faces, their names, their stories, their lives, their militancy, and we make them present,” said Cortiñas.

She stressed that “they are present because we have never abandoned our fight against impunity. The annulment of the full stop and due obedience laws allowed the times of justice to return,” and recalled that “16 years of effective trials for crimes against humanity with 1,058 convicted is an achievement that we must never minimize.”

At the same time, Cortiñas said that “we are concerned about the increase in benefits granted to convicts and detainees with preventive prisons,” and highlighted that “currently, 579 have the benefit of house arrest. Of the total number of people investigated at this time, there are 764 people in detention, while 1,532 remain free.”

She emphasized that “it is necessary that the appointment of judges be resolved urgently; that resources be strengthened to deepen the investigative work in the investigation stage; that the gender and diversity perspective be incorporated into the judicial view; that the orality stage be accelerated by adding days of hearings; that the endless times in the recursive routes before Cassation and the Court end.”

Norita concluded the speech by stating that:

“We, the people, are the strength of the struggles that were born in this country to make it fair, free and supportive. We are the identity of a nation that continues to build Memory, Truth and Justice, that defends sovereignty and independence. We will not allow any damage to democracy. Since we recovered it, the people will take care of it forever.”

Tanya Wadhwa is a writer for People’s Dispatch.

This article is from Peoples Dispatch.

10 comments for “Argentina Again Remembers Its US-Backed Coup

  1. Allen
    April 1, 2022 at 20:35

    In addition to coups, the oligarchs of the USA and the world extend their influence in numerous ways. The www (dot)atlasnetwork(dot)org/ is a worldwide organization of neoliberals not unlike those who were active in the Argentine coup. Amongst its many “strategic partners” are the ever-beloved Kochs.

    Their wholesome sounding vision belies their evil:

    “Atlas Network is a nonprofit organization that aims to secure for all individuals the rights to economic and personal freedom through its global network of strategic partners.”

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    April 1, 2022 at 10:57

    And HOW MANY sanctions imposed??? Not a single one – not one!

  3. April 1, 2022 at 09:35

    What we do in foreign lands, come back in our own society. If we were ok with our government torturing, subjugating and killing people in foreign land without justification, how can we complain if it is done to us. We reap what we sow and that is how every empire went down. Hubris of the empire was not checked at home.

  4. Tony
    April 1, 2022 at 09:32

    The regime was extremely anti-semitic but had close links to Israel.

    “I remember when I was arrested in 1977 there was a giant swastika painted on the wall at the federal police central headquarters where I was interrogated,” — Robert Cox, the British former editor of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald.

    • robert scheetz
      April 1, 2022 at 19:26

      I still miss that paper.

  5. James Simpson
    April 1, 2022 at 04:46

    Wikipedia: During the 1976–1983 Argentine Dirty War, many thousands of people disappeared, clandestinely kidnapped by groups acting for the dictatorship. Human rights groups in Argentina often cite a figure of 30,000 disappeared; Amnesty International estimates 20,000. Many were killed in death flights, a practice initiated by Admiral Luis María Mendía, usually after detention and torture. Typically they were drugged into a stupor, loaded into aircraft, stripped, and dropped into the Río de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean.

    According to the testimony of Adolfo Scilingo, a former Argentine naval officer convicted in Spain in 2005 for crimes against humanity under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, there were 180–200 death flights during 1977 and 1978. Scilingo confessed to participating in two such flights, during which 13 and 17 people were killed, respectively. Scilingo estimated that the Argentine Navy conducted the flights every Wednesday for two years, 1977 and 1978, killing 1,500 to 2,000 people.

  6. Realist
    April 1, 2022 at 02:55

    I needed to refresh my memory as to what the World Hegemon and its plaything the UN was doing about this problem at the time. We all know that the UK was at war with Argentina over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. Prince Andrew, when his name still held honor, made his bones as a helicopter pilot on one of the British warships that were sunk by exocet missiles. But how Washington, with a tentacle in every nation state, was interfacing with genuine fascists I could not recall. All I could remember was that a former diplomat of the overthrown Argentine government was assassinated while on the lam in Washington DC, and some were saying in the still free media that he was eliminated with a car bomb planted by an operation aided and abetted by the CIA, called, to my best recollection, Operation Condor. Turns out the diplomat’s name was Letelier, he was the former ambassador from Chile and on the run from Augusto Pinochet, head of another fascist state transformed by the overthrow of a democratically elected government by the CIA. I started to dislike our federal government (even more than for their gifting my generation with the Vietnam War) then and there for siding with and assisting bona fide fascists, probably including numerous ex pat German WWII Nazis who had quietly slipped out of der Vaterland to make new lives in Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay unimpeded by the victorious allies (Except for Adolf Eichmann who was kidnapped, tried and executed by the state of Israel circa 1960. They searched for Dr. Mengele till they found his bones sometime in the 1980’s, but everyone else proved elusive.).

    So, I looked up the term in Wikipedia and, bingo, got the following hit: “Operation Condor was a United States-backed campaign of political repression and state terror involving intelligence operations and assassination of opponents. It was officially and formally implemented in November 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America. Outcome: Concluded after the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

    Sure enough, Washington, has been faithfully supporting its reclamation project of der Fuehrer’s best and brightest ever since Operation Paper Clip. Those lovable rascals in the Azov Battalion and Right Sektor are simply legacy slots or postings among gentlemen, you know, like Dubya must have been at Yale. Clearly, in Washington’s view of the world, the “whole ball of wax” is more like a baseball, which when cut open is seen to be composed of one continuous ball of yarn wrapped around a unitary hard rubber core. Since it’s all connected, it all ties together with decisions made exclusively in Washington and controlled solely by Washington. Give up the idea that anyone else has the slightest degree of autonomy in this world…as far as the US is concerned. However, one day there will be a huge unmistakable disturbance in the force and Washington will either have to change and accommodate to it or else perish in its present form. We old coots, like Biden, Trump, Dubya, Cheney and the Clintons have already set this transformation in motion, as have the leaders of Russia, China, India, Iran and elsewhere, but will probably not live long enough to see for themselves the long-term results, for both better and worse. I would hate to ever learn that all this potential that still surrounds us was transformed into just a smoldering pile of radioactive slag under an eternal cold dark winter sky. To avoid this, we need to stow both our apocalyptic weapons of war and the cocky belligerent attitude we carry with ourselves everywhere and at all times.

    • Whatatumble
      April 4, 2022 at 18:44

      “We old coots, like Biden, Trump, Dubya, Cheney and the Clintons have already set this transformation in motion, as have the leaders of Russia, China, India, Iran and elsewhere, but will probably not live long enough to see for themselves the long-term results”

      Difference social relations vary in their behaviours.

      In the Russian Federation unlike in the “Soviet Union” the seeking of attribution has lessened.

      Some who gathered in 1969 to explore whether and why “The Soviet Union” required transcendence not reform, held positions of some significance in “The Soviet Union” and like most other participants thought it necessary, although likely that they would never see all of outcomes, and were confortable with that.

      If some ocassionally wavered they were reminded of the esteemed lover of medals – Leonid Ilych Brezhnev who had a medal to match every tie, suit and uniform.

      They took enjoyment from their endeavours and the jokes shared.

  7. lester
    March 31, 2022 at 20:08

    Now, in the USA, we have “legal” “targeted assassinations” of people put on a “kill list” in the White House, no trial, no nothing. Likewise we can be “disappeared” into secret prisons, forever. Most Americans just pretend it’s not happening.

    • MrBumble
      April 1, 2022 at 01:15

      “Most Americans just pretend it’s not happening.”

      Most others don’t, most of whom don’t live in moments with memory wipes in between, whilst those who pretend it is not happening render themselves more vulnerable; useful fools who are not only fools on April Fools Day.

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