The Call of The Argentine
“Will the ardent pleas of the mothers of the disappeared ever be listened to?”
An enormous agricultural country with vineyards up to the Andes Mountain Range and los pampas with her tourist ranches and yes the bustling and industrial Buenos Aires (the capital itself). It is bounded by Uruguay and Paraguay and the River Plate to the north, the Atlantic to the East, the Andes to the West and Tierra del Fuego (the end of the world) and Cape Horn to the south – the roughest passage of all. Her peoples are Spanish, Italian, French, German, Welsh and English by origin. The British built the railways. Her religion is fundamentally Roman Catholic. Her national sports are football, rugby union and polo, the last started by the British. They even have cattle ranches and cowboys.
2. Her recent history:
She escaped Spanish domination in the 19th Century with independence and eventually went democratic post war – Eva Peron. The country see-sawed between democratic regimes and so called benevolent oligarchies (cabals) and dictatorships e.g. General Peron, widower of Evita Peron. In the 1970’s and 1980’s she was saddled with a military junta (cabal) who made the risky move of invading the Malvinas (the Falkland Islands) deep in the South Atlantic off the Argentine east coast. They had been a British coaling station colony since pre-First World War days and were governed by Britain and garrisoned lightly. They were sparsely populated by British settlers. I say risky because nine times out of ten the risk would have paid off and the British would have acquiesced but not with Margaret Thatcher our British PM and her Task Force. They chose the wrong moment and the wrong woman and these Islands were re-taken by the British infantry supported by our Navy. They were an all-male Junta lead by General Galtieri who soon fell from power after he lost the Falklands War in 1982.
3. The predicament of Argentine 1970’s and 1980’s.
The Junta was repressive, military, undemocratic and Roman Catholic. Not unsurprisingly it was opposed from within the country mainly by students and young people conscious of its suppressive policies. Students can be foolish e.g. the student demonstrators in 1968 in Paris against the elected and popular President of the Fifth Republic in France: General de Gaulle. These Argentine students and radicals had real grounds for their opposition to the Junta as the turn of events showed. How did the Argentine Junta respond to this vocal student and radical movement against their highly anti-libertarian regime. I am afraid to say by liquidating several thousand of them in all probability significantly more mainly young men over a lengthy period of time. No one knows how and where and why they died. It is not in doubt that they had an animus (intense dislike) for the Generals of the Junta who were calling the tune in their country. This animus was mutual but the Junta went beyond lawful means in retaliation into murder itself. The young men peaceably protesting against this despicable and hated regime literally disappeared without trace. No one could pin any culpability on the regime as there was no proof as to fact of death let alone causation. It is very difficult to prove murder without a dead body but it can be done. That class of murder was done in the Argentine with what was called “Les deprecados” – the disappeared. Eventually after the regime was toppled there were I believe trials and convictions but no death sentences carried through. (I am not conversant with Argentine criminal justice).
4. The nature of “Les Deprecados” challenge to the Argentine when it was going on and before it came to be accepted.
Essentially someone had to speak up for the liquidated young men and highlight their plight and that of their families. The moment was right to challenge this regime even before Thatcher took the Falklands back from the Junta. It was the women interestingly who spoke out – they were the mothers of these murdered young men and knew in their hearts their sons had been “taken out”. They did not require or seek visible proof. They joined together to express their grief and accusation: namely that so many opponents to this regime did not go missing innocently. There had to be the black hand of conspiracy and organization behind these deaths (presumed) or logic and reason were being traduced. Thus the disappeared were “represented” by their mothers who had given birth to them and were now clamouring for justice and enquiry into the manner of their deaths. Life must be defended at all costs even before liberty and women who are mothers do it best for their offspring.
I ask myself did persons in authority join with these mothers and march with them? The liquidated clearly could not. It was up to the radical politicians and Catholics with influence to back up these mothers. I get the impression the voices of protest were muted apart from the mothers. No one wished to be accused of being deluded and everyone feared the hated Junta. Clearly the Regime’s apparatus of government would turn the searchlight of alleged irrational suspicion on to those who argued these young men had been “taken out” forcibly over a significant period of time. To this day controversy rages on these appalling atrocities. It took real persistence and prayer for the mothers to prevail. Even they may have doubted their sons to start with. It is easy for us with hindsight and from our armchairs to be bullish and argue the response of the Roman Catholic priesthood and hierarchy in the comfort of a Catholic Country like the Argentine with a Roman Catholic Junta was pathetic and gravely inadequate to this regime’s inhumane policies. Do you risk the lives of those around you and your own life and create further instability and fear already very evident and condemn the liquidation of these young men? I confess to being a purist and I consider the deafening silence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the Argentine in the face of this hidden and deadly enemy at the time of these brutal crimes being committed and afterwards was nothing short of cowardice in the face of that enemy. It will take a long time and a lot of contrite prayer to put right. For my part I say thank God for my Anglican mother.