Jorge and María Emilia Zaffaroni, of Uruguay, and their daughter, Mariana. The parents were “disappeared” and their infant daughter was illicitly “adopted” by a military family with ties to the Argentine Junta. Theirs is just one of hundreds of similar cases, some of which are still open criminal cases to this day.
Hey! Remember how, the other day, Barack Obama was in Cuba? And how strangely prophetic José Martí’s words have become in light of that?
Well, right after he left Havana, he landed in Buenos Aires. And there he lost no time praising Mauricio Macri, whose economic policies (and toadying to the foreign vulture funds, in particular) have brought daily protests and daily repression. And then there’s this, which I somehow get the feeling won’t be discussed on this visit, in light of Macri’s own ties to past repressors from the age of the Junta:
Reinforcing the Obama administration’s planned “comprehensive effort to declassify” historical records on Argentina’s dirty war, the National Security Archive today posted examples of the kinds of materials in U.S. government files that would most likely enhance public understanding of that troubled period in Latin American history. The posted documents, relating not just to regional developments but to official U.S. policy and operations, were declassified either through similar government decrees — thus setting a useful precedent for current administration officials — or the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
In August 2002, the State Department released 4,700 documents on Argentina dating from 1975 to 1984. Declassified under a directive from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the Clinton administration, the documents were processed and delivered to the public during the administration of George W. Bush. The State Department acted in response to numerous requests in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s from human rights groups as well as from Argentine judges investigating abuses under military rule.
That release produced valuable information but was limited mostly to reporting from the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires on Argentina events. The U.S. Justice Department tried to elicit similar responses from other agencies to the Argentine judges’ requests under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), but only State chose to comply by undertaking a major declassification. The FBI, CIA and Defense Department declined to participate in the process.
These materials have had a powerful impact not only on the public’s awareness of events but on the personal lives of numerous victims and relatives of victims. For example, one of the records from the 1999 Chile Declassification posted today is a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) information report providing details about an operation carried out by Argentine intelligence and Uruguayan military intelligence in September 1976 against the Uruguayan insurgent organization, OPR-33 in Buenos Aires.
As a result of this raid, dozens of Uruguayans living in Buenos Aires were disappeared. Among them were Jorge Zaffaroni and Maria Emilia Islas de Zaffaroni, and their 18 month old daughter Mariana Zaffaroni Islas. Mariana was illegally appropriated and raised by one of the Argentine SIDE officers. She was DNA tested and her identity “recovered” by the Argentine Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo in 1992, when she was 17 years old.
The documents posted here today attest to the fact that these kinds of materials have the same potential to help Argentines in their pursuit of truth, human rights and justice. Still-classified documents in U.S. files undoubtedly describe similar operations against Argentine insurgents, dissidents and opposition, and would therefore significantly advance public comprehension of another historically significant episode of military repression in the region.
Of course, I doubt Macri would be interested in that, much less inclined to look favorably upon the release of it. And I doubt if even His Barackness has the stomach to finally open the prosecution of a most infamous old war criminal, who happens to be a crony of Hillary Clinton:
The most prominent case is that of then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Shortly after the 1976 coup, according to declassified State Department minutes of Kissinger’s staff meetings located at the National Archives and included here, his own Latin America specialists warned him “to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina.” Kissinger, however, made clear that he wanted to show unstinting support for the new military junta (see document below). This approach, which effectively granted protective cover for major regime human rights violations, lasted until the end of Kissinger’s tenure in January 1977.
In addition to the policy process, another area of significant public interest would be what U.S. intelligence and military personnel were aware of, and what kinds of operations they conducted, during the coup and subsequent counterinsurgency campaign that started in 1976. According to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Pat Derian in early 1977: “The U.S. military and our intelligence agencies… [are] sending a dangerous and double message. If this continues, it will subvert our [President Carter’s] entire human rights policy.”
Pat Derian was a courageous woman and a real exception among the normally shady denizens of the US State Dept.; she confronted the junta with their own abuses, on home turf no less. And there is no doubt that she, like President Carter, was dismayed by US support for them. Here she is, talking about that experience at her home in a clip from the award-winning documentary, Nuestros Desaparecidos:
Somehow, all of Obama’s well-meaning talk on human rights in Cuba rings kind of…hollow after that, does it not?