30 years on

Today is a national holiday in Argentina, called to mark the 30th anniversary of the military coup 24 March 1976 and the start of the 'Dirty War' in which some 30,000 people were killed or disappeared.

There has been a flurry of activity over the past few months with the announcement of prosecutions of some of the former military and political leaders believed to be responsible for crimes during this period. Earlier this month, the chief of the air force, following similar statements by the army and navy, finally admitted that the air force has been responsible for human rights violations during the military dictatorship. This week, the government announced that all offical archives relating to that time would be made accessible to help those still searching for the truth about their loved ones.

In an article for Latin America Press, Pablo Waisberg tells one of many stories of lost identity and families torn apart:
On Feb. 9, former police officer Ricardo Taddei was arrested in Madrid and charged with 161 counts of kidnapping and torture committed between 1976 and 1979. Taddei’s arrest was ordered by Argentina’s judiciary within an investigation into the First Army Corps’s repressive circuit that controlled 19 clandestine detention centers in and around Buenos Aires.

Taddei’s arrest coincided with the restitution of identity of the son of Gastón Casado and Adriana Tasca, who were detained and disappeared in 1977. A large extended family was in search of Casado and Tasca’s son. Baptized by his adopted parents as Sebastián, he is now 28.

According to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group whose members — relatives of the disappeared — work for the search and restitution of the identities of children who were kidnapped or born in captivity during the dictatorship, 500 children were taken from their parents during this period.

Gastón Casado was kidnapped in 1977 and taken to the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA), a torture camp and clandestine detention center. In 2004, Kirchner designated EMSA as the site for the Museum of Remembrance. Adriana Tasca, five months pregnant, was also detained during the same time.

Sebastián, whose real parents thought of naming José or Josefina, was born in a clandestine center, which the country’s military named “La Cacha,” short for Cachavacha, the name of a witch in Argentine folklore who makes naughty children disappear. Sebastián was given to a couple — friends of a military officer — who raised him. The birth certificate was signed by a Buenos Aires police doctor, who is tied to other child appropriation cases.

As in many of these cases, Sebastián contacted the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo with suspicions that his was not his true identity. When genetic test results confirmed these doubts, he signed the receipt Sebastián José Casado. Days later, he was reunited with his biological family.

“It was something magical, something so unexpected,” said Ángela Barili de Tasca, Sebastián’s grandmother. “It was full of tears, laughter, something so beautiful, unforgettable for me. When he hugged me I told him that he hugged like his father. They were embraces that enveloped you, full of tenderness.”

http://www.latinamericapress.org

Yesterday evening students, staff and friends of ISEDET attended a service to mark the start of the academic year. About 30 new students (including me!) were presented to the community and welcomed with words and applause. Later in the service, a retired bishop who had ministered during the Dirty War read extracts from his diary of 30 years ago. He wrote of returning from visiting political prisoners, exhausted by what he had seen. In his diary he reflected on the 'monster' who holds in one hand guns and tanks, in another weapons of torture, in another propaganda, in another silence and fear. But, he wrote, against this we have truth. The Bishop concluded with the words of a young girl at that time who was selling flowers in the street:
They can cut down many flowers but they cannot stop Spring.


This afternoon I will go with others from the college to participate in the march of rememberance and hope taking place in the city centre. I'll try to post tomorrow on this. If you do, please remember Argentina in your prayers today, and all those still grieving for loved ones. A wall of memory is being developed at: http://www.desaparecidos.org/arg/victimas/eng.html

There are pictures of last night's event on the BBC website:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4839896.stm

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