Yesterday, Argentina commemorated the 39th anniversary of the coup that brought in the repressive military dictatorship of 1976-1983. Those years–when up to 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured, and killed–came to be known by many names – the “Proceso” (shorthand for the Process of National Reorganization, the official policy of state repression during that time), the “Dirty War,” civic-military dictatorship, and later, state terrorism and genocide.
The Argentine state targeted anyone they deemed subversive, and it has taken decades for human rights groups to attain public and official recognition and support for their struggle for justice and memory. Under Néstor Kirchner’s presidency (2003-2007), the amnesty laws that had protected perpetrators for years were overturned, opening the door for prosecutions and trials to begin, including the ESMA mega-trial currently underway.
During the years of impunity that preceded these trials, the advocacy devoted to memory and truth sustained this history in the nation’s consciousness, including the marches of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo and other human rights groups.
As part of those efforts, we see March 24th — commemorating the date in 1976 when the military took over rule through a coup d’état– officially designated as the National Day of Memory for Truth and Justice (Día Nacional de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia) in 2002, becoming a national holiday on 2005.
Yesterday, throughout the nation, Argentina commemorated this date that brought in years of human rights abuses and genocide. Although decades have passed since these crimes, the demands for justice continue – including, most recently, the call by human rights groups yesterday for the investigation of current army chief César Milani for his alleged involvement in forced disappearances and abductions during Argentina’s genocide. (See http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/185115/marching-with-next-government-in-mind.)
This call only highlights the continuing importance of memory for truth and justice, even as trials are underway. It also reminds us of the need to continue sustaining such memory not only March 24th, but the morning after, and every day.