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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Argentines Rally in Support of Dictator?

I received an interesting question from a reader who read an Associated Press article about Argentines rallying "to support dictatorship." Having seen the local coverage of this rally as well, I wanted to clarify for the international readers out there what is actually going on.

Reader's Question

I just saw this AP article about a rally in support the 76-83 regime. I'm totally confused by it so I thought I'd get your opinion as a current resident of Bs. As. First of all, would you agree that this is a rather small group of people compared to those "counterpart" protesters that the article mentions (they didn't mention how many people were in that group)? Since you live there, have you noticed whether there is some kind of renewed pro-military movement or something?

There was some discussion on your page previously in which there was pretty much a consensus that Argentines were generally against all aspects of dictatorship and the "milicos." I'm also confused as to why the AP would even put this weirdly short and one-sided article up on their cover page. I thought these people might just be family members of those parties involved who may finally have to pay for their crimes (and if so, why would this be a headline).

Political Situation

As part of the leftist opposition during the days of the dictatorship, President Kirchner is making the prosecution of former military men and elements of the old regime one of his key domestic policies. In addition to the prosecution of top generals and military officers, prosecutors have opened cases on police officers and even civilians who served in the government at the time -- the most famous of which is José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, who served as the junta's economy minister from 1976 to 1981.

Many members of the former regime received pardons from former President Carlos Menem, which have now been overturned by the courts. In addition, two laws that prevented the prosecution of former regime members were overturned by the Supreme Court early this year, setting the stage for further prosecutions.

Opposition to Kirchner

The largest opposition to Kirchner's actions comes from the family members of the former regime elements, many of whom feel they are being scapegoated for Kirchner's political gain. They say Kirchner is rewriting history by only telling one side of the story -- the abuses of power by the government. They claim the government is failing to prosecute the former left-wing terrorists, who also committed abuses. Before they were essentially wiped out by the military regime, these left-wing terrorists were setting off bombs in Buenos Aires, killing government officials, kidnapping businessmen, and causing chaos and havoc in the country. Some say Kirchner would prefer to glaze over that part of the story and just focus on abuses by the military government.

Most of the Argentines I know are part of the middle class -- people who work hard, have families, and play by the rules -- and they don't subscribe to the version of history that Kirchner is putting out. They say there was an undeclared civil war and that there were abuses on both sides. They certainly don't support what the military government did, but think the government now is revisionist and one-sided with history. It is no secret that Kirchner was part of the leftist opposition to the military regime and now, they say, he's using his presidency to punish is former foes.

My Take on Things

To be fair, I'm not sure I can intelligently take a side on this issue. I know what it means to fear terrorism and it can never be condoned. At the same time, the disappearance of people without a trial is not something that can be excused in the name of fighting terrorism. Perhaps the military started out with the execution of terrorists, but they finished by going after political opponents, students, and left-wing sympathizers who had nothing to do with terrorism.

I do think the climate has gone too far, however. Just a few months back, left-wing students protested to stop the vote for rector of the University of Buenos Aires. One of the candidates had been a civil servant during the military government and the students felt he should not be given the opportunity to be on the ballot. Blocking the exercise of democracy through popular protest by a vocal and militant minority should not be condoned, but it is increasingly accepted here when it is the far-left who are doing the protesting. Kirchner has failed on multiple occasions to use police force to stop left-wing protests from becoming violent. He even allowed left-wingers to occupy the French Embassy, which, to me, shows a complete disrespect of law and order.

Incidents like these, as well as the failure to stop urban crime, have led to the Blumberg anti-crime movement. Personally, I feel the pendulum has swung too far. There must be a happy medium between government repression and total anarchy. Asking the police to enforce laws and bring order to the society does not mean a return to repression. However, there are many who feel otherwise and would prefer to see the leftists set loose to do what they will.

Ultimately, the Argentine people will have to decide how they wish to proceed. They will either reelect Kirchner and the trials will continue along with the tacit approval of left-wing activists, or they will choose center-right candidates who want to provide law and order to the country and take a harder line on issues like crime. Next year's presidential elections will determine what path Argentina takes.

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21 Comments:

Anonymous El Americano said...

"Next year's presidential elections will determine what path Argentina takes."

If history offers any guidance, it'll be the WRONG one.

Again.

10/31/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger rickulivi said...

I left Argentina in 1975. I had friends from the right and the left that were killed, disappeared, kidnapped, and so on. Who started all this? At that time, the caos was great, and the fear intimidating. I was lucky to leave.

There is no question in my mind that the military and their supporters were 100% responsible for what happened. They started seizing power like thugs in the 1930's, using their weapons to intimidate and overpower fellow citizens. What right did they have to throw out the elected governments and assume power imposed on us by their guns? Their lust for power was endless. With their unlimited arrogance, they would close Congress and ban all political activity. I left when I was about 25 years old, never having voted because elections where shams.
I remember once, around 1970, riding in a Mercedez Benz of a friend of mine, whose father was a colonel, and wondering how they could own a Mercedez at a time when you could not import any cars. That's when I found out that certain laws did not apply to the military: they had the right to import cars!!!!
Yes, the Montoneros and the ERP and the FAR committed many atrocities, but at least they had the courage to do something to try to change a system corrupted and run by the military. I strongly believe that none of those movements would have erupted in Argentina had we had open elections throughout the 21 century.
Who was Aramburu, but a criminal dressed in military clothes. Who was Videla but a torturer disguised as an innocent Little Red Ridding Hood.
I do hope that Argentine people learn to live in peace among themselves, although the recent event with the transfer of Peron's remains leads me to believe that they have not learned much. Moyano is still a thug, and he is still allowed to submit people to his will via violence and intimidation.

Regardless, without justice, there can never be lasting peace. Let the trials continue. Bring Videla to court, and charge Firmemich too. But never let pardons run their course because that invites history to repeat itself. And I certainly don't want to hear again that my fellow citizens are being tortured or kidnapped or killed any reason.

11/01/2006 03:12:00 AM  
Blogger Noelia said...

Hi Everybody.. we have to admit that, the leading countries of the world, have taught us to fear dictatorships. The word "dictator" itself has a negative connotation, wether the dictator is good or bad. They make us believe that democracy is the only and one great style of government and everything else is against human rights.
I dont want a tyrant, but I understand that democracy, at least temporarily, doesnt work in Argentina. Not because of the president, and not even because of the Congress, but because of huge multinational companies that seem to have more power than our government.
I'm not saying I would like to have a military junta like it happened in the 70's, but, we have to learn to see things in context. It wasnt that awful. When people tell about the military junta they always remember Malvinas and missing people. But they neglect to tell the other version of the story. We were having a big bunch of subversive people, terrorizing the population. If it wasnt for the huge opposition caused by the militaries, we would have an Argentine version of ETA right now. Many innocents disappeared, thats right, but the majority were not innocents. My parents were stopped hundreds of times by the militaries and never had a single problem with them.
So, although I dont want an evil military junta, I do think we need someone to take full control and restore the country, with one simple rule: Argentine people first, then the rest of the world. Mc donalds, telefonica de Argentina, and many others will hate the idea, of course, but I'm so sure it would put Argentina first in teh rankings again. Just by having a patriotic president who doesnt have to respect the many bad treaties our previous presidents have signed, causing this hell we're living in.

11/02/2006 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

I'm a big fan of Argentina, but in my experience one trait many Argentines share is a tendency to place too much blame on outsiders - whether foreign multinationals, foreign governments or others - for their country's problems. I think many Argentines should bear in mind the words of the old Michael Jackson song, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror . . . ".

11/02/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that the protests at UBA a couple of months back are the best example of the whole situation. From what I was able to gather, the demonstrations were really a response to a combination of factors, including the fact that the candidate has a military background. The students also emphasized, however, the fundamental lack of an acceptable candidate. It seemed as though the system had set him up to win without really sufficiently looking for a capable and generally well-liked and well-respected slate.

11/02/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Law and order are good on balance. Argentina has an unhealthy reaction to any concept of law and order due to its past. The seat belt laws, for example, showed this most plainly. Paranoia in lieu of common sense trumps when you attempt to enforce laws on the books and/or fairly punish those who commit crimes,etc...Some Americans like this "wild west" 19th century style and consider it more "freedom," but it's really an excuse for failing to take responsibility for one's actions. Argentina needs to hold itself to account and really take responsibility for what its people and, most importantly, its politicians say and do. There's no other way to grow out of the immaturity than to simply grow up. As Borges is known to have said: one generally gets the government one deserves (paraphrasing,of cours). This sounds harsh and I'm in no way conservative per se, just pragmatic and a true lover of logic and common sense.

11/02/2006 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Expatriado II said...

Argentina has never had closure. You can still start a pitched discussion on Rosas vs. Urquiza, Irigoyen vs. Uriburu, the military vs. Peron and almost inevitably the passion in the discussion is inversely proportional to the historical knowledge the arguers exhibit. They all seem to be slaves to slanted history texts, simple propaganda, anecdotal experiences and father-to-son hereditary partisan dogma, on who was bad and who was good.

The aim of closure is to sew up the wound. President Raul Alfonsin tried that with the Obediencia Debida/ Punto Final laws, where in a Nuremberg-style decision, the courts judged and punished the top ranks of the armed forces but let the rank-and-file go. Menem tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube by facing down the Seineldin military rebellion and issuing pardons. The left wing terrorists/ freedom fighters were never judged but benefited also from a pardon and are today, law-abiding citizens, pushing their ideas from behind a desk instead of behind a machinegun. If only they would have tried that in the 70s !

By the way, these pardon laws were later overturned, allowing the wound to reopen and fester to this day.

In Chile, a similar process happened (extreme left violence, upheaval of society by new regime, reaction via the military, repression, dissappearances)and after all these years, Chile has had three left of center governments (Aylwin, Lagos and Bachelet)out of four, and no Chilean president has had the moronic thought of reopening a witch hunt on old crimes. In exchange, the Chilean Army has hung Pinochet out to dry as a concession to closure, and that is that.

May Argentina learn, again, from Chile.

Argentinos ! A las cosas !

11/02/2006 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger rickulivi said...

El Expatriado II wrote that "the Chilean Army has hung Pinochet out to dry as a concession to closure, and that is that."
Closure had nothing to do with Pinochet's legal problems. The guy is a thief, who just happened to get caught. IF not by stealing, how else did he amass the millions of dollars at the Briggs Bank?
Chile's current leaders have not prosecuted the military because they are fearful of them. With the military's track record of torture, the El Condor Plan, and so on, the politicians have every right to fear the military, unfortunately.
Chile's politician avoided a "witch hunt" not it was a "moronic thought," but rather because they did not and do not have the power to go after the military. If you doubt my words, ask former president Allende, or Lettelier, or so many others who died for opposing the military.

11/04/2006 12:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Expatriado II said...

Rickulivi: Either the army is still very powerful, in which case they can stop the Pinochet inquiry with a few well placed phone calls or it's powerless, therefore Pinochet will end up in disgrace if and when the accusations are proved (but not for the crimes the left would like him to hang).

My opinion still is that the army and the left have decided to let bygones be bygones. The left has proved that they can govern, without turning prosperous Chile into a hapless Cuba. And the army is happy that the civil judges are the ones that will cleanse it from thieves.

Remember that Al Capone was put in jail for tax evasion, not for ordering rub outs.

Best, E II

11/06/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prosperous Chile?? What are you talking about?? You should come over here and see.... For instance, Do you know what free education is?....Sadly, We don't. I've got lots of examples to show you that Chile is not as prosperous as you think, my friend, just ask.
Why do we have this fame of a lovely country when I see my brothers starving everyday? Thank the media! They have done a great work hiding miseries!
Juan el Chileno

11/09/2006 03:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you, americans, have a real problem... You think that you are the good ones...Nothing to do with Argentina, Chile and else's misery? Really??? What about CIA supporting coupe d'etat in Latinarica?? Some names for you...Batista, Somoza, Pinochet, Stroessner, Videla,Massera and Agosti...Do you want more?? There are hundreds!! Just ask, my dear...
Or you still reckon that Kissinger was a nice christian who enjoyed travelling?

11/09/2006 03:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chile: I was on holiday, travelling through the South of the country in Dec 2002 and they just had put up a shiny new sign naming the all-important North-South main road after Pinochet. I found it equivalent to go to Germany today and find a major national motorway named after Hitler. That for me is, in a nutshell, the situation in Chile regarding its past.

There's no "Ruta Interprovincial Presidente Jorge R Videla" in Argentina

11/24/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger El Expatriado said...

You can't compare Pinochet or Videla to Hitler. No mater what you think of Pinochet or Videla, they certainly did not orchestrate a genocide.

11/24/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El Expatriado wrote:

"No mater what you think of Pinochet or Videla, they certainly did not orchestrate a genocide."

They didn't orchestrate a genocide? What would you call orchestrating the disappearance and murder of 30 000 citizens? (30 000 in Arg.'s case ; don't have the Chile numbers) Or is it that only above, say, a 50 000 minimum you can start calling it genocide? Maybe your point is that the Hitler regime and the Lat Am dictatorships have differences; I'm not denying that. My point is that in Chile they don't seem to have a problem with naming a major national road after their dictator and mass murderer.

11/24/2006 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger El Expatriado said...

No, it was not a genocide. It was political violence -- an undeclared civil war. There is no doubt that inocents were killed on both sides, although surely the governments of both Chile and Argentina went to the extreme.

My point is that you can't compare a madman to tried to exterminate an entire race of people with internal political conflicts within a country -- no matter how many people were killed. The United States fought a civil war, but it was not a genocide. The same goes for Argentina and Chile. The wars were fought over political differences between factions within the country.

11/24/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, leaving out the Hitler-Pinochet comparisons, this last bit of debate did originate from the earlier point made about Chile not having (quote El Expatriado) "the moronic thought of reopening a witch hunt on old crimes" and the "concession to closure".

All right then: so when they decided to name that national road after Pinochet, was that part of a "concession for closure"? To me it's more like they went the extra miles to officially honour their former dicator & mass murderer and that's hugely relevant since it's a recent event (the road-naming), and as far as I know, the name & sign are still there with no big complaints.

I find it very difficult to appreciate comments like "the moronic thought of reopening a witch hunt on old crimes", which to my ears are words that sound like the discourses of the local far-right and dictatorship nostalgics, more or less verbatim. I find it jarring that these are the opinions of somebody who has not lived through those deeply dark years in the country. Maybe if you had to live under a Pinochet/Videla-like regime, you'd think in a different way.

11/24/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger El Expatriado said...

I think you're confusing me with Expatriado II (a different poster) who made the statements you quoted.

11/24/2006 02:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough (mistaken identity, Expat and Expat II), sorry about that. Yes I obvouly referred to the comments of Expat II

11/24/2006 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger tiempodefotos said...

The ppl make mistakes everywhere, and there are problems everywhere,, but "el americano" has a litlle obsessive problem with Argentina, lets remember that Hitler and Mussollini were elected many times, every country has its mistakes , i even know a place where the ppl voted for a man called George W.... twice;(twice means ...again).

11/26/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

The elections in the US are not honest. The vote counts are staged, like most of the "news" in the good ol USA. The US govt has been taken over by Isrealis. The people of the US have had their country stolen out from under them and most are too ignorant to notice. GW was never elected honestly.

12/07/2008 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike,

Do you think the elections in Argentina are any more honest?
Argentina does not even celebrate primaries to begin with... Come on...

12/28/2008 11:49:00 PM  

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