On March 24, the government and people of Argentina marked 30 years since the military coup ended democracy in the country for seven years and left thousands dead and missing. The military junta that ruled from 1976 to 1983 seized power from Maria Estela Martinez de Peron (1974-1976), purged the country's left through murder, torture, and forced disappearance, and implemented some 1,800 laws, removing any advances accomplished earlier in pro-labor legislation. Argentine President Nestor Kirchner marked the anniversary with promises that "never again" would such a period come to pass.
The country somberly recalled the March 24, 1976, coup that toppled the constitutional government of Maria Estela Martinez de Peron and ushered in a "dirty war" against dissidents. Peron was the vice president and widow of Juan Domingo Peron (1946-1955, 1973-1974). She took the presidency after her husband died.
During a crisis of hyperinflation and anarchic violence between the divided wings of the Partido Justicialista-peronista (PJ) and other groups, military officers led by Gen. Jorge Videla overthrew Martinez de Peron and began a nationalistic purge of the country's dissident forces. The junta did not fall until its disastrous failure in a war with Britain over the Malvinas or Falkland Islands brought it into total disrepute.
Among a long litany of crimes, officers stole children from detainees in torture centers and illegally arranged for their adoptions by allies of the regime (see NotiSur, 1998-06-12). Official estimates say the regime killed 13,000 people, though human rights groups place the number closer to 30,000.
"Not one step back" was the motto of those who commemorated the coup with a new national holiday, rallies, rock concerts, and a tour for dignitaries of the horror chambers in the dictatorship's biggest torture center.
Applauded by his Cabinet and the gray-haired Madres de la Plaza de Mayo wearing the trademark white handkerchiefs of their long human rights struggle, left-leaning President Kirchner condemned what he called systematic state terror during the dirty war. The Madres said that the current government was an ally in their cause when they staged their final Resistance March earlier this year (see NotiSur, 2006-02-10).
Kirchner dealt a blistering public challenge to pardons of coup leaders, saying in a speech at a military college that they should receive court scrutiny. After the dictatorship fell in 1983, many...