Saturday, 21 April 2012

Argentine dictator admits to crimes

Ex-Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla has finally acknowledged the crimes of his regime. In the 1970's, over 30,000 men, women and children were abducted and murdered by the military junta. Thousands were tortured, raped and executed for opposing the dictatorship; babies were kidnapped from political opponents, and given to supporters of the regime who raised them as their own. All became known as the "disappeared". Human rights groups like the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo are still searching for their loved ones, as many of the bodies were never recovered. 

Videla was imprisoned for life in 2010 for torture and kidnapping, but has always maintained his policies were necessary to rid the country of communists and socialists, a defence that stems from the height of the regime. However, this is the first time Videla has admitted to the murder of 8,000 people. He has never admitted to the policy of stealing children, although he claims there were a "few cases" when that happened.

How can a nation move on from such a tragedy? I remember reading a story about a couple who had been kidnapped and brutally tortured by the regime. They survived to see the onset of democracy to the country, but the political change in government did not provide a "stable" solution. One day the couple were heading home on a bus, and at one stop, a man climbed into the seat in front of them. He was the man who had tortured them. There are hundreds of people like him, walking the streets, never punished for their crimes. They are unlikely to be punished now. Argentina may have organised trials, amnesties and other attempts at "healing" the country, but can a wound this deep ever be healed? Will it take the death of the perpetrators and those directly affected by the regime for society to move on? Should society move on? Whether Argentina tries to forget or not, the uncomfortable truth is that the future discoveries of mass graves and torture centres are inevitable, sporadic interruptions to a society that may prefer silence. 

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