domingo, 4 de agosto de 2013

Children of the disappeared on the ballots

By Luciana Bertoia

Human rights have been a central part of the Kirchnerite agenda. Not surprisingly, children of disappeared parents are taking important places in the lists for the PASO primaries to be held next week in a number of political parties both in favour and against the national government.
The slogan of the ruling Victory Front (FpV) for the October midterm is: “In life, you have to choose”. In a campaign poster, two young men are seen having a cup of coffee under the slogan “they chose to recover their identities.” Both of them are children of disappeared parents.
So is Juan Cabandié, who is heading the FpV ticket to the Lower House of Congress in Buenos Aires City. Cabandié was born at the ESMA clandestine detention centre in 1978 and was appropriated by the policeman Luis Falco. In 2003, Cabandié’s real identity was restituted. In 2004, he delivered a speech at the rally staged outside the ESMA. Since then, he has become a popular Kirchnerite figure. He is one of the leaders of the youth organization La Cámpora, which is headed by the President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s son, Máximo Kirchner. In 2007, Cabandié was elected to the City Legislature and he is now the head of the FpV caucus. If elected in October as is expected, he will in the spotlight of the national political arena.
Cabandié is not the only child of disappeared parents in the City’s FpV list. He is joined by Victoria Montenegro. The 37-year-old woman who takes the fifth place on the ticket was born in 1976. She was snatched by Herman Tetzlaff, chief of the Vesubio clandestine detention centre who was also in charge of Communications at the Campo de Mayo garrison, one of the biggest concentration camps in Buenos Aires province. Montenegro recovered her identity in 2000. She has maintained a lower profile than Cabandié. She has been part of the Kolina organization since it was founded, which is the political group headed by the president’s sister-in-law, the Social Development Minister Alicia Kirchner.
“Since Néstor Kirchner took office in 2003, we have been able to take to the present time our missing ones. We are trying to fulfill our parents’ dreams,” Montenegro told the Herald. “I find the FpV as the only coalition capable of taking to action those policies to transform people’s lives,” she said.
The Kirchnerite candidate also added that if she and Cabandié get a seat at the Lower House, they will join other children of disappeared parents such as Horacio Pietragalla and Eduardo “Wado” De Pedro, who have already become lawmakers. “We are the result of the human rights groups struggle,” Montenegro concluded.
In Santa Fe province, Josefina González is Jorge Obeid’s second on the Victory Front list for the Congress. “La Tana”, as she is known by human rights activists, is also a member of La Cámpora organization. Her parents, Dardo Tosetto and Ruth González, were part of the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP). Her father was killed before the military coup. With her mother, Josefina was taken to Rosario City’s Information Service and she stayed in that clandestine detention centre for months.
UNEN front
Victoria Donda used to be part of Kirchnerite coalition but she is not any more. One of the leaders of the Libres del Sur movement, she is a lawmaker at the Lower House but she is joining the economist Alfonso Prat Gay on the ticket for the Upper House for the PASO primaries. Like Cabandié, Donda was born at the ESMA clandestine detention centre, where her mother was taken to give birth to her. Paradoxically, in that concentration camp, her uncle was one of the repressors. Donda was appropriated by one the ESMA’s death squad members, Juan Antonio Azic, who is currently being tried for the crimes committed during the dictatorship.
Before knowing her real identity, Donda became an activist for the Libres del Sur movement. Since then, she has maintained a critical approach toward politics. Currently she criticizes the Kirchnerite administration for its “double standard” in human rights issues.
“The problem is not that the FpV uses the recovery of identity as a slogan for the campaign, the problem is the content of the speech. Now, for the FpV, to recover identity means to accept that while allegedly defending the human rights violated during the dictatorship, they appoint a man like César Milani as the head of the Army,” Donda told the Herald.
Milani’s appointment as army chief has been controversial for the Kirchnerite administration. The general served in the so-called Operation Independence in Tucumán province, where he is linked to the disappearance of conscript Alberto Agapito Ledo. Milani was also reported for taking part in abductions in La Rioja province during the military regime that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.
Asked if she considered that Milani’s appointment could represent an obstacle for the FpV in the elections, Montenegro denied it.
“I absolutely back the decisions made by the president. We should follow the necessary steps, which is to let the judicial investigation to be carried out. If something is proved, the necessary measures should be taken,” the Kirchnerite candidate highlighted.
Juliana García is running for Congress in Buenos Aires City for the Left Worker’s Front. She is actually a member of one of the parties included in the coalition, Izquierda Socialista, and she is also a daughter of disappeared parents.
In 1977, a death squad arrived at the house where a 3-year-old Juliana lived with her parents, Domingo García and Beatriz Recchia. Both were teachers and members of the armed Peronist organization Montoneros. García was killed while Recchia was taken to Campo de Mayo clandestine detention centre. There she gave birth to a girl who was snatched. A lifelong fighter, Juliana always searched for her until she found her in 2009.
“The government did some things concerning human rights but also used them for its own benefit,” García, who currently works at the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo team, told the Herald.
“The Kirchnerite leaders argue that they have been recovering the missing grandchildren. However, the government is not leading the investigation toward this aim,” she highlighted. For García, there are many pending issues regarding crimes committed during the dictatorship and she firmly opposes Milani’s appointment.
“The state is trying to recompose its Armed Forces but maintaining the perpetrators of genocide,” she said.
Their varied voices show a different approach to a controversial part of Argentine history. Men and women in their mid-thirties or forties are no longer the youngsters demonstrating outside the Congress. Now, as part of the generational change, they want to win their seats.

Analysis- A bad choice, but no easy way out for government

By Luciana Bertoia
César Milani seems to have been a poor choice to be the new head of the Army — and the government knows it.
Last month, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner decided to reshuffle the upper echelons of the armed forces and she chose Milani as the head of the Army, even though there were some reports linking him with the so-called Independence Operation, which, in 1975, set the stage for the human rights violations carried out by the last Argentine dictatorship.
Milani seems to be a bad choice for a government that has made the defence of human rights into a standard, especially shortly before a critical midterm election. So, little wonder then that the Kirchnerite administration decided to postpone the Senate discussion on Milani until after the election.
Yesterday morning, the big news was that the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) rejected Milani’s designation.
The move came after days when both Kirchnerites and anti-Kirchnerites have been talking about evidence. While one side insisted there was no proof linking Milani with genocide, the other argued human rights organizations are the ones responsible for providing them.
The problem here seems to be a lack of understanding of how the dictatorship worked.
The military regime carried out a clandestine repression, erasing evidence of its crimes. Is there a more cruel evidence of the lack of evidence than the disappeared people? Often, no files are available for human rights organizations to examine. They collect what they can. Their main source of information has been testimonies by survivors.
Another kind of evidence might be the state archives but they are not available and that is a pending issue that can be blamed on all the democratic governments that have ruled the country since 1983.
Although he appeared before two federal judges last week, Milani has not been able to clear up his name.
Yesterday evening, when the FpV announced that the discussion on Milani would reconvene after the election, a question remained: Who will benefit from this delay?
The PASO primaries to be held August 11 are too close for the government to acknowledge a mistake. At the same time, using the FpV’s majority to guarantee Milani’s promotion could very well turn out to be an expensive mistake. But saying that Milani may be responsible of crimes against humanity might also be too high a cost that the government may not be willing to take before October’s midterm.
For days, Kirchnerites and anti-Kirchnerites have been requesting evidence. After having heard the human rights groups’ “evidence,” they paid little attention to it. Now, they say they do not want elections to interfere with the appointment.
Whether human rights can be put aside to wait for elections seems to be an entirely different question.

Analysis- Human rights: new narrative?

Human rights: new narrative?

By Luciana Bertoia
Questions after tuesday’s speech
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s backing of César Milani’s appointment as Army chief seems to have opened a grey area, raising questions about the government’s human rights’ narrative.
In a national broadcast on Tuesday, Fernández de Kirchner said she did not want to attack institutions, and that her aim was to take to court the former members of the Armed Forces who individually committed crimes during the seventies, seemingly not wanting to examine the responsibility of the forces as a whole. Continued from front page
The newly-appointed Milani not only generated controversy among Kirchnerites and opposition leaders, but also led to a wider discussion of the Armed Forces’ responsibilities over the crimes committed during the last dictatorship that reigned between 1976 and 1983.
“It seems problematic to say we are only examining personal and not institutional responsibilities,” sociologist Daniel Feierstein told the Herald. “This is more similar to what former president Raúl Alfonsín used to say.”
Feierstein, who currently heads the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), also highlighted that military was involved in disappearances and abductions as members of the Armed Forces and not as individuals.
“In the trials that have been taking place across the country, it was confirmed that the repression was part of an institutional decision from the forces, not only in Argentina but in the whole region. Based on the National Security Doctrine, they conducted a national reorganization process through terror, which was not the decision of merely a few members of the military,” he added.
In Argentina, since 2006, members of the Armed Forces and civilians involved in human rights violations during the military regime have been taken to court. Since then, more than 426 people have been condemned and 45 of them acquitted according to the information provided by the Human Rights Prosecution Unit. Fourteen proceedings are currently under way, some of them examining three over-arching cases, such as the crimes perpetrated at the ESMA (Buenos Aires), La Perla (Córdoba) and Arsenales (Tucumán) clandestine detention centres.
Sociologist Valentina Salvi, who studies Armed Forces issues at the UBA’s Gino Germani Institute, explained to the Herald the need to judge the members of the Armed Forces, but not to say they were all responsible for the human rights violations of the past.
“In the context of trials, it seems difficult to continue condemning the whole institution, even though it has been done politically,” Salvi argued. “We should differentiate the different levels of responsibility. Criminal responsibility is never referred to the institutions. Political responsibility is certainly linked to institutions and implies revising their roles and traditions.”
In May, the President embarked on an effort to reshuffle the Defence Ministry. Then-Minister Nilda Garré was removed from office and replaced by Agustín Rossi. Since then, the former head of the Victory Front (FpV) caucus at the Lower House has been assigned the responsibility of “restructuring” the forces, as Fernández de Kirchner reminded the country on Tuesday.
“Kirchnerites are seeking to give a new role to the Armed Forces in a democratic nation,” Salvi said. “That means they should assume new tasks, and that is why Fernández de Kirchner appeals to the Armed Forces and the people, between whom the relationship has been broken.”
According to Salvi, the Kirchnerite administration has been re-assessing aspects of the forces linked to its role in industrial development. For instance, Fernández de Kirchner days ago decided that the Military Industries Directorate would be under the Defence Ministry’s jurisdiction, and would promote an import-substitution strategy.
“This is necessary to reform the Armed Forces, but that project must also be supported by society and politicians. It is essential to make the youngest members of the military aware of the previous role the forces played, to reconfigure the hypotheses of conflict and their relation toward society,” Feierstein said. “If someone believes this project has already been carried out, it’s a misunderstanding.”
Milani’s appointment as head of the Army is important within that context because “reforming the military forces is a process and, as part of that, it is important to see what role is given to people who were involved” in the dictatorship, he said.
Both experts agreed that if reports on Milani for alleged crimes during the dictatorship have been unveiled, it is necessary to review his appointment.
For its part, the government seems determined to keep the man accused of being involved in abductions and disappearances as Army head, in spite of clashes with some human rights organizations that used to support the Kirchnerite administration unconditionally.

Bill to compensate military stalled

By Andrew Hughes and Luciana Bertoia

herald staff

A controversial bill that would indemnify the relatives of soldiers and civilians killed in an attack carried out by the armed Peronist group Montoneros in 1975 will not be discussed in the Senate today.
The bill, which was approved by the Lower House with the support of the ruling Victory Front (FpV), has been criticized by human rights groups that say it could support the so-called “theory of the two demons,” which contends that armed rebel groups are as much responsible for the violence of the last military dictatorship as the dictators themselves.
The indefinite postponement of the measure appears to be another example of how the government is delaying discussion of controversial military-related issues after it put off debate on César Milani’s appointment as the head of the Army earlier this month.
“The FpV will be responsible if the project is not analyzed,” Radical (UCR) lawmaker Ricardo Buryaile told the Herald last week. “If it was passed at the Lower House, it was because the government ordered it, so I expect the same will happen in the Senate.” 

The bill that was approved in the Lower House was presented in 2010 by Buryaile and FpV lawmaker Juan Carlos Díaz Roig to compensate 12 soldiers, two policemen and two civilians who were killed on October 5 1975, when the Peronist armed group Montoneros tried to take over the Infantry Regiment Number 29 “Colonel Ignacio Warnes” in Formosa province.
A dozen Montoneros fighters were also killed in that attack.
Human rights groups have expressed their concern because they understand that this law might reestablish the so-called theory of the two demons, which claims the armed civilian groups were as much responsible for the crimes committed by the dictatorship.
Since then, the right-wing organizations commemorate on October, 5 the “day of the victims of terrorism.” And in Formosa they more specifically commemorate the “day of the Formosa soldier.”
According to Buryaile, the relatives of the soldiers —mainly conscripts— who died in the attack deserve a cash reperation from the state, despite the fact that they have been receiving pensions.
Only 18 lawmakers voted against the bill and 135 supported it, whereas 43 abstained on November 29, 2012. FpV party lawmaker Carlos Kunkel voted in favour, while one of its opponents was FpV lawmaker Remo Carlotto, the head of the Lower House Human Rights Committee and son of the president of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Estela Barnes de Carlotto.
Lawmaker Buryaile explained to the Herald that when he submitted the draft, he first negotiated with Kunkel to obtain the FpV support. The ruling party backed the initiative in the Lower House but it still remains unclear whether the ruling front will support the measure in the Senate when, and if, it is discussed.
The bill establishes that the heirs of the military dead would have two years to demand compensation from the Interior Ministry.
Operacion Primicia (Première Operation) was the name given to the attack, marking the first time the Montoneros guerillas attacked a military base, those actions had been carried out by the leftist Revolutionary People’s Army (ERP) but never by the Peronist armed organization during a Peronist government.
Carefully planned, the operation included the hijacking of an Aerolíneas Argentinas plane and the takeover of Formosa airport, not to mention the assault and subsequent escape. The attack was launched on a hot Sunday afternoon, when the regiment was almost deserted except for some soldiers who could not afford to go back home.
Journalist Ceferino Reato, who wrote a popular book on the attack, contends that the Formosa attack hastened the launch of the so-called Independence Operation in Tucumán province, which ordered the “annihilation” of armed leftist organizations.
Independence Operation has been in the news recently due to Milani’s appointment as the head of the Army. There is little discussion over the fact that this operation ordered by the Peronist government was the first step towards the clandestine repression carried out by the dictatorship that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.
“The armed organizations helped to give legitimacy to the repression but the Armed Forces had already decided to launch it,” sociologist Marcos Novaro told the Herald.
“We should not mix historical responsibilities with criminal ones,” Novaro argued, adding that “I think the state has to take charge of those who died defending its institutions.”
Human rights organizations do not share Novaro’s view. They see the bill as an attempt to reestablish the so-called theory of the two demons.
“This law seeks to equate the armed organizations behaviour with the systematic plan of terror, persecution and extermination carried out by the state,” the children of disappeared parents organization HIJOS said months ago when the bill was passed in the Lower House.
A trial for crimes committed during the dictatorship at the Formosa regiment and at the Escuelita clandestine detention centre is starting today.
“I cannot understand why we are discussing this bill in a moment when trials are taking place,” Juan Manuel Lenscak, a member of the HIJOS organization in Formosa told the Herald. “Reestablishing the theory of the two demons might lead to turning back on all the work on memory and justice that Argentina has been pursuing.”
@deibidhughes @LucianaBertoia

miércoles, 31 de julio de 2013

'María Isabel "Chicha" Chorobik de Mariani: 'It’s time to open dictatorship’s files’

Herald interview with María Isabel ‘Chicha’ Chorobik Mariani
 Sunday, July 28, 2013‘

   By Luciana Bertoia

María Isabel “Chicha” Chorobik Mariani, the founder of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, is eighty-nine years old. She knows that time is ticking and she needs to find her missing granddaughter, Clara Anahí Mariani Teruggi. This relentless lady who has lost her sight has devoted her days to that mission.

At her home in La Plata, “Chicha,” as she is best known to human rights activists, talked to the Herald about her search, that made her believe that Marcela Noble, the daughter of the Clarín media group owner Ernestina Herrera de Noble adopted under strange circumstances, could be the girl she has been seeking for 36 years desperately.

Mariani left the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in 1989 and since then she has been heading the Anahí Association, whose main aim is to find the girl snatched in La Plata in 1976 when the military attacked the house where she and her parents lived.

With her warm friendly voice, “Chicha” reviewed her struggle and recalled her relation with the Herald during the last dictatorship.

“I have been there many times during the dictatorship. We used to go with Licha de la Cuadra and Juan Gelman’s wife to talk to Robert Cox and to ask him to publish our claims and I think the first time somebody understood what I was going through was at the Herald. Neither the priests nor anybody else, the journalist did,” she said.

During the April floods in La Plata, Mariani’s house was inundated. Her files, carefully collected during decades, were damaged. She received help from volunteers but also from the government. “I have been asked to talk about this but I didn’t want to. What happened to me is nothing compared to the death toll,” she said.

“When I find myself collecting the things scattered by the water, I think of myself when the death squad destroyed my house the same night when they killed my daughter-in-law. In his book Memory of Fire, Eduardo Galeano wrote about me and my house in ruins during the dictatorship. I always think I have to tell him that I remembered his description after the floods,” she said.

How do you assess what the Kirchnerite administrations have done about human rights?

I used to have great expectations when they took office. I hoped they would do many things — and they have. Human rights organizations have received support and even economic support. There has been a willingness to discuss human rights issues. However, people are still afraid.

Are there pending issues?

Yes, the most important thing is still pending: to find the disappeared people and children. What I say might be annoying for some people, but the Mothers and Grandmothers, have been the only ones to look for the missing ones. When has any government searched for my granddaughter? No government has done it, neither this one nor the previous ones. I was the president of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo for ages. Our struggle was difficult but in 36 years the state has not found a single one of our missing grandchildren.

What should the government have done then?

It would have been possible if they had acted courageously, opening the archives. For instance, documents appeared at (Jorge Rafael) Videla’s house when a raid was carried out more than thirty years after the coup. Why was it not ordered before? Maybe, due to fear. I am nearly 90 years old and time is running out for me and I think that the most important things have not been done: to open the archives and to make people understand the importance of breaking the silence. I acknowledge what the Kirchnerite administrations have done but there is a lot still pending.

On August 12, it will be Clara Anahí’s birthday. Are you going to release the balloons as usual?

Yes. I certainly do not know the details yet. I want to be there but I am not sure I can go through those emotions. In every balloon released, I write a short message and part of my soul goes with it. My hope is that someone finds the balloon and gives me some information. Many people know what happened to Clara Anahí but they have hidden the information. For years, they have only told lies: that she was killed, that my son was alive and had taken her to Spain. Horrible and painful lies. The worst thing was that many people believed in what (Ramón) Camps said but they did not trust me.

But some years ago a former soldier said he saw when the baby girl was being taken from the house, didn’t he?

Three years ago he said he was there when a man took the girl, alive, from the house after the attack. She was wrapped in a pink, green and white curtain. He did not say the name of the man who was carrying the baby but he said he was tall and with curly hair. Then that man gave the girl to a man I think was the head of the regiment. He said he was driving a Navy van, which was part of the Navy Infantry Battalion (BIM) III. The van was driven to the battalion and soldiers stayed there until it got dark. According to this soldier, they have never known why they had to stay there. I think it was because my granddaughter was taken there but I need evidence to prove it.

What was your relation with the Church hierarchy during your search?

The first thing the Mothers did was to go to the regiment or to the police station to see if we could gather information about our children, then we resorted to the Church with the hope of being helped but we were not. In my case, Monsignor (José María) Montes showed me the way out from the Cathedral and told me to stop bothering because Clara Anahí was being well cared for by the people who had her. When I visited Monsignor (Emilio) Gra-sselli, he told me he was going to do everything possible. When my husband came back from Europe, we went together to see him and he, very annoyed, told us that we should have gone earlier, that nothing could be done because very powerful people had my granddaughter. More than 20 years after, he was called to appear in court and the judge asked him if he still had the file we all knew. He had everything except the card referring to Clara Anahí.

Did Pope Francis raise any expectations in you?

The Church’s response distanced me from it. I cannot expect anything from the Church. Nothing. I cannot utter a favourable opinion of Bergoglio. I don’t know him but if he had wanted, he could have done something before. Licha de la Cuadra used to have a close relationship with him. One of the first things I learnt when I met her was that. We have been to the Vatican seventeen times. I wonder why the Church was not asked to open its archives, they must have lots of information regarding our missing grandchildren.

You left Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo when it was starting to become more politicized. What is your opinion of the association now?

I am fully retired. I wanted to leave without being a nuisance to what I created. I brought it to life so I could not destroy Grandmothers due to my anger or my sadness, so I won’t give an opinion. Of course, when I was part of it, one of our standards was not to enter the political world because we used to have different points of view. We didn’t use to talk about politics because we didn’t have time for that.

Why did you think Marcela Noble was your granddaughter?

The first person who told me to search in Clarín was (Guillermo Patricio) Kelly, but I didn’t believe him because he had lied many times. I don’t know why he said that but I started to investigate and some things matched with what the priests had told me. After some suspicious manoeuvres, I started thinking Marcela could be my granddaughter.

For example?

Changes and lies we have been facing. The last analysis which was carried out and took all day long was particularly suspicious. Marcela and Felipe Noble had already said that if it was a quick test, they would do it. Marcela had been abroad. They said that they would agree to do the analyses if they didn’t have to leave their fingerprints. That day they asked the experts if they agreed and they said yes but I still think it was suspicious. Was there an identity fraud?

Do you think so?

For me, there was something weird. The girl went to have the analyses performed wearing the same clothes she had already used but she was much slimmer. Maybe it is nonsense, but I have doubts.

Why would they agree to have all the tests done except for the fingerprints?

Because when they take the fingerprints, they also take DNA.

Do you agree with the transfer of the National Genetic Database to the Science Ministry?

No. We created the genetic database with a great effort. For example, if something happens while they are carrying the samples from one place to another, we would lose what we have been collecting for years.

What do you think of César Milani’s appointment as the head of the Army?

If he was involved in the genocide, he cannot hold that position. When the river runs, it brings something. What did he do in Tucumán province during the dictatorship? No military was out of the repression, they wanted all to cover their hands with blood. He was young during the military regime but I have known many young perpetrators.