It was 30 years ago today that a military junta seized power in Argentina, ushering in one of the darkest periods in the country’s history. Up to 30,000 people are thought to have been tortured and killed during theseven-year dicatorship – known as the “dirty war”. Many were too afraid to speak up but some – including a group of mothers whose children had been taken – began to make their voices heard.
In 1983 democracy was restored and the National Commission on the Disappeared was created. But laws passed by the president and his sucessor protected those who may otherwise have been prosecuted. Campaigners continued to clamour for justice and were joined by the children of the disappeared, many of whom had been fostered out to military families.
“Laura was murdered aged 23, with a marvelous life ahead of her,” said the president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto.
“My grandson is the one I’m looking for. I don’t know where he is. He’s 27 years old. What is his name? How did they educate him? What does he feel? What does he think? Is he far away, close by, I don’t know. But we have already found 82 children. I have hopes that one day I will be able to find mine.”
The leftist government of current President Nestor Kirchner repealed the amnesty laws, paving the way for fresh trials. Argentina has now decided to make public all secret archives of the military to help uncover crimes committed under the dictatorship. And with an exhibition on the dirty war, it looks as though the country is finally acknowledging its grim past.