For shame! Newpaper in Argentina suggests it’s time to forget about the ‘Dirty War’

Employees of the newspaper La Nacion in Buenos Aires, Argentina, want everyone to know that they do not agree with an editorial printed on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, that suggested it was time to stop prosecuting people who committed murder and other human rights abuses during Argentina's Dirty War, between 1976 and 1983. (La Nacion photo)
Employees of the newspaper La Nacion in Buenos Aires, Argentina, want everyone to know that they do not agree with an editorial printed on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, that suggested it was time to stop prosecuting people who committed murder and other human rights abuses during Argentina’s Dirty War, between 1976 and 1983. (La Nacion photo)

Here in Canada, many people were outraged when the Postmedia newspaper chain forced all of its papers to run pre-election editorials in favour of the Conservative party, even when local employees did not agree with the stance.
Something infinitely worse has happened in Argentina. The Washington Post reports that, on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, one day after the right-of-centre candidate Mauricio Macri was elected president, the newspaper La Nacion printed an editorial saying it’s time to forget about “vengeance” against the perpetrators of Argentina’s “Dirty War.” “One day after citizens voted for a new government, the desire for revenge should be buried once and for all.” Of course, the trials are about justice, not revenge. The unnamed writer seemed to think that the guilty should be able to escape punishment based on their advanced age alone.

Horrified journalists at the paper distanced themselves from the editorial; they posed in the newsroom with signs saying that they condemned it. La Nacion printed the photo and an article about the disagreement.
Between 1976 and 1983, up to 30,000 people were jailed, tortured and “disappeared” by the military junta in Argentina. The victims were men, women and children. Some were thrown from air force planes into the ocean while still alive.Sometimes pregnant women were allowed to give birth before being killed, as many as 500 children were given to military families, told nothing about their real parents or what had happened to them. Some only learned the truth as adults, thanks to the persistance of the grandmothers who kept looking for them. A New York Times article in 2011, about a woman who was raised by the man who killed her parents, said 105 children had been found so far. In September of this year, the BBC reported that another child of the disappeared had been indentified.

Investigations into the kidnappings and murders began in 1983 with the return to civilian rule; nine junta leaders were tried, convicted and sentenced in 1985. A law passed in 1986 was aimed at stopping further trials, when that didn’t work, a 1987 law gave immunity to all but the highest ranking military officers. Trials stopped in 1987, then, in 1989 and 1990, President Carlos Menem freed approximately 1,200 officers who had been imprisoned.

In 2001 the Federal Court in Buenos Aires found the amnesty laws invalid, and trials began again. Congress annulled the laws in 2003, and the Argentine Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in 2005. In 2007 a judge ruled that the pardons were unconstitutional as well.

I was writing a review of the documentary Drone when I noticed the Washington Post story – maybe some day people will be prosecuted for using them, too. Chile had its own “Dirty War” though apparently it did not steal children. On Saturday, at the RIDM film festival, I watched the Chilean film Le bouton de nacre, which is partly about the disappeared of that country. The segment was horrific; I can’t imagine anyone feeling forgiving after watching it.

License to Operate: Former Los Angeles gang members come together to save lives

License to Operate map

The documentary License to Operate introduces us to former Los Angeles gang members who were deadly enemies in their younger days but are now co-operating, through an organization called A Better LA,  to break a cycle of murder and retaliation that had lasted for decades.

One man gets out his high school yearbook and tells us that most of his former classmates are dead now. He has photos from their funerals. it’s obvious that he’s lucky to still be alive himself. Another man tells of seeing five candlelight memorials for murder victims in just one evening. That was the night that he knew he had to do something to save the next generation of children.

After receiving instruction from the Professional Community Intervention Training Institute, the men do liaison work between neighbourhoods and the police and fire departments, encouraging young people to stay out of gangs and calming tensions after murders. If something happens, even in the middle of the night, they’re out there on the street, trying to keep the situation from escalating, eliminating rumours, etc.
They certainly have their work cut out for them. A Better LA says that there are more than 450 gangs in Los Angeles, and that: “ ‘Invisible lines’ drawn by gangs to designate their turf cause children to live in a constant state of fear, wondering if walking to school or crossing the street puts them in harm’s way.”

A lawyer explains that many of the children in these neighbourhoods have the same levels of post traumatic stress disorder as children living in war zones. Before the age of 16, they have lost as many as 10 friends to murder. We see doors and walls that have been riddled with bullets. It’s truly appalling.

License To Operate, directed by James Lipetzky, 101 minutes, in English
Saturday, Oct, 3, 2015 – 7 pm
Cinéplex Odéon du Quartier Latin
350, Rue Émery, Montréal (Métro Berri UQAM)
Admission is $10.
Check the Montreal International Black Film Festival web site, for details, the film schedule, film synopses and trailers.
The Montreal International Black Film Festival has a Facebook page, too.