Lessons of history

Watching television this past Friday, 24 March, gave me an opportunity to learn from reminiscences about the “National Reorganization Process” that started when a military junta led by General Jorge Rafael Videla seized power from President Isabel Peron. Subsequently, Argentina armed forces formally exercised power through a junta led consecutively by Videla, Viola, Galtieri and Bignone until December 10, 1983. Between 1976 and 1983, an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 people that were suspected by the junta to be involved with left-wing activities were “disappeared” by authorities. Citizens were kidnapped, detained, tortured, and executed without being charged and without evidence, often simply on a hearsay evidence.

The repression was particularly violent against the University of Buenos Aires which, as any Argentine public university at the time was autonomous and organized by a tripartite government of students, professors and graduates. It was reported later, in 1983, by the National Commission on the Disappeared (CONADEP) that “systematic abductions of men, women and children, the existence of about 340 well-organized secret detention centers, including the infamous ESMA Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires, and the systematic use of kidnapping, torture and murder were planned and ordered by the highest levels of military command.”

History has given us many similar lessons of this – be it by fascists in Germany, communists in the former Soviet Union and all satellite socialist countries, and many past and ongoing genocides in Africa. Some, such as European countries, seem to have learned from the experience. One can only hope that people of Argentina, under the leadership of its new government of change, will adopt the culture of democracy, culture without corruption, and of giving rather than taking.