Sunday, January 14, 2007

Human Rights in Argentina

We bring you this break in Brazil-blogging to report two stories that matter in the ongoing march for human rights in Argentina.

Last week, two arrests made international headlines. The first was the arrest of Juan Ramon Morales, a rightist paramilitary leader of the Triple A ("Alianza Anticommunista Argentina"), a group which was responsible for the deaths of hundreds (if not thousands) of Argentines between 1973 and the dawn of the military dictatorship in 1976, and which was a major factor in the escalating tensions between right and left that ultimately did lead to the dictatorship.

The second was in Spain, where ex-president Isabel Peron was arrested for her ties to the Triple-A. Peron is specifically charged with her role in the disappearance of a student. She doubtlessly had a role in allowing numerous other paramilitary activities, but the approach of trying her for just one case is wise, as it's been proven in Argentina and elsewhere that such charges often open the way for broader charges (let's not forget Pinochet was originally arrested in London in 1998 just for the deaths of a handful of Spaniards in Chile).

These arrests are extremely important for a couple of reasons. First, they reveal a broad and growing willingness in Argentina to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations. This matters because the military has been unable/unwilling to interfere, making efforts towards justice more possible. Secondly, these arrests are important because they move beyond the prosecution of human rights violations during the period of the military dictatorship (1976-1983) to prosecute those who were involved in human rights violations prior to the dictatorship. From the exit of Juan Peron in 1955 up to 1976, the military popped in and out of politics in Argentina, and human rights violations were not infrequent either on the left or the right in Argentina for those 21 years. It is good to see the courts beginning to go after criminals from the pre-dictatorship period. Finally, by prosecuting people from this period, Argentina is reminding itself (and other nations, such as the U.S.) that the violent period was not limited to the dictatorship itself. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the U.S. and the world stood by and watched as violations increased, and it said nothing. Sure, Kissinger openly supported the dictatorship's torture and murder of what ultimately was more than 30,000 people in Argentina, but the U.S. ignored human rights in Latin American long before that.

Justice marches onward.