US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the first batch of Washington’s declassified intelligence documents dating back to the 1976-1983 Argentine dictatorship to President Mauricio Macri, following through on a commitment made by US President Barack Obama during his March visit to Argentina.
Kerry noted that more declassified files will be handed over in the near future but did not provide any specific further details.
The Human Rights Secretariat will now pore over the files to see what they contain. The move comes as part of an effort by Buenos Aires and Washington to repair a relationship that had frayed during the Kirchner years.
“I want to note that the relationship between the United States and Argentina is an exciting, forward-looking one. But we’re also conscious of the lessons from the past,” Kerry said as he set the stage for his Thursday announcement that the documents would be handed over.
“Last March, in response to a request from President Macri and human rights groups, President Obama promised to identify and share additional US government records, many from intelligence and law enforcement agencies. So later today, I will deliver the first tranche of those declassified documents to President Macri, with more to come in the future.”
The recent effort follows the declassification in 2002 of more than 4,000 US State Department cables and other documents related to Argentina’s military dictatorship, which the US government initially supported.
In 2000, Madeleine Albright — then-president Bill Clinton’s secretary of State — visited the country and met with Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo head Estela Barnes de Carlotto and members of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line and the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS).
She agreed to cooperate with the rights groups who had filed a request before the US Department of State. They wanted to know if there were diplomatic cables mentioning Operation Condor and cases of baby-snatching.
A process of declassification had been approved by January 2001, but events would soon conspire to counter the effort. Later that year, 4,700 files were sent to the Argentine Foreign Ministry and handed over to human rights organizations who immediately started using them as evidence in criminal complaints against dictatorship-era perpetrators. Not every relevant file however has been provided, many more remain under lock and key.