domingo, 4 de agosto de 2013

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

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