Thousands of Argentines took to the streets of Buenos Aires and other cities Thursday evening under the slogan “Memory, truth and justice” to evoke 35 years of the last military coup that left a toll of an estimated 30.000 killed and disappeared detainees.
The march takes place when the head of the first military Junta that ousted the elected government on 24 March 1976, General Jorge Videla is in jail sentenced to life imprisonment and is facing another trial for the disappearance and kidnapping babies from political prisoners.
Humanitarian organizations among which Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo packed at least twenty blocks of central Buenos Aires Avenida de Mayo as they marched towards Government House in Plaza de Mayo.
They carried a 200 metres long Argentine flag and photos of the thousands of disappeared.
“We never expected to achieve what we have achieved”, admitted Hebe de Bonafini, leader of the Mothers of Mayo. So far 200 former officials have been sentenced and another 800 face trials.
“Trial and punishment to the civilian ideologues and accomplices”, read other banners carried by the march. The reference was to the civilians who under the Standing assembly of business associations, APEGE, called for the ousting of the Isabel Peron administration in 1976 and its replacement by a military government with civilian ministers in clue ministries as Economy, Planning, Agriculture, Industry, Central bank.
The master mind behind the political move was economist and farmer Jose Martinez de Hoz, currently under trial for alleged links to extortive kidnappings at the time including fellow businessmen.
Martinez de Hoz, members of the military Juntas and hundreds of other military and police officers benefited from amnesties under the government of President Carlos Menem in 1989 and 1990, but they were overturned when the Kirchner couple took office in 2003.
Under the new Argentine calendar March 24 is the National Day for the Memory, Truth, and Justice Holiday and calls on citizens to think over what happened during the last of the many dark and violent periods that Argentines experienced throughout history.
One of the most notorious torture centres during the 1976/1983 dictatorship, the Navy’s Mechanical School and its vast grounds have now been converted into the Memory Museum and conference halls for educational and cultural activities.
“Since the return of democracy in 1983, 200 people have been sentenced including all members of the military Juntas. Another 820 are facing legal actions including 400 already sentenced for at least one crime”, according to Argentina’s Prosecutor’s Office.
Another demand from the marchers was the “Identity restitution for the stolen children”. This refers to the over 500 babies kidnapped when born in captivity and fathered by disappeared detainees. So far 102, thanks to the persistence from the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have been recovered from step families and given their proper names.
During the seven year dictatorship, the military had over 500 official and clandestine detention centres where prisoners were systematically tortured, eventually killed and babies from pregnant women stolen, sold or given away.
The dictatorship came to an end in 1983 following on the 1982 Falklands’ fiasco when the military invasion of the South Atlantic islands was defeated by a British task force sent by PM Margaret Thatcher.