Joanne Omang returns to Argentina after three decades and finds that the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo would be holding their final March of Resistance:
On April 13, 1977, a dozen or so Argentine mothers, despairing of learning what had happened to their children, put on white kerchiefs and gathered at the 220-foot obelisk in Buenos Aires’s Plaza de Mayo. This is where generations of Argentines have demonstrated, where Juan Peron mobilized his descamisados, the shirtless ones, where Evita cried from the balcony of the presidential Casa Rosada; it is where the generals years later rallied support for the invasion of the Malvinas Islands (a k a the Falklands), which eventually brought them down. The plaza is Argentina’s living room. The mothers, carrying photos of their disappeared loved ones above small signs asking Where Are They?, marched slowly and in silence around the obelisk.
Over 30,000 persons “disappeared” after the military coup that ousted Juan Peron’s widow, Isabella Peron, from power and launched a fierce repression of the Argentinian leftists. Today, the leftists are in power… and have their critics:
many Argentines doubt Kirchner’s ability or desire to deliver. Inflation is rising and corruption charges accumulate. The vision of Argentina potencia–as strong and prosperous as every Argentine knows it could be, if only its leaders would do the right thing–seems as “potential” as it did in 1976. But two things felt firm to me: No one risks extermination now by sounding off, and no one seems worried that the lists of the disappeared might lengthen again. The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, even those still marching, are not adding new names. They are making new demands
In a true democracy some demands get met, some don’t, depending on so many factors it’s exhausting to think about. We don’t know if Argentina is fully there yet. But in the meantime, Argentina’s mothers are moving on, loudly. I think we can chalk up one win.
Update: On the 30th anniversary of the coup, Randy Paul recollects Henry Kissinger’s dubious role in supporting the military junta.
“I think also we’ve got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they’re going to have to come down very hard not only on the terrorists, but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties.” But Kissinger makes his preferences clear: “Whatever chance they have, they (the Junta) will need a little encouragement… because I do want to encourage them. I don’t want to give the sense that they’re harassed by the United States.”