[Marxism] Argentina's Fatima massacre

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Wed Jul 30 12:22:29 MDT 2008

Wednesday 30 July 2008 
by: Sam Ferguson, t r u t h o u t |  Report 
"No me basta," says Haydee Gastelu. Often. Literally, it translates  from 
Spanish to mean "it's not enough for me." But the dicho could also  be 
interpreted as "it never ends." For Mrs. Gastelu, both are true. 
During the last 32 years, Mrs. Gastelu has  relentlessly pursued the 
suspected murderers of her son Horacio, who was  "disappeared" by the repressive 
intelligence services of Argentina's last  military government in 1976. On August 7 
of that year, he and his girlfriend,  Ada Victoria Porta, were dragged from 
Porta's house by a small unit of  plain-clothed men in the middle of the night. 
Porta's family reported seeing the  couple forced into a Ford Falcon, hogtied 
and hooded, as they were driven away.  Two weeks later, a predawn blast 
rocked the small town of Fatima, on the  outskirts of Buenos Aires. When the sun 
rose, workers found the remains of 30  bodies, scattered as far as 60 feet in 
diameter, incinerated by dynamite.  Horacio was amongst the victims of the 
blast, though Mrs. Gastelu did not know  it at the time. 
Initially, the perpetrators of the incident walked  free. The military 
government didn't bother to launch an investigation into the  incident because the 
massacre was part of a larger repressive apparatus. 
Mrs. Gastelu's had high hopes of seeing justice done,  however, in 1983, when 
Raul Alfonsin was buoyed to the presidency in the wake of  the military's 
collapse on a platform of demanding accountability for the "Dirty  War." Between 
1985 and 1987, the government launched a series of successful  prosecutions 
against high military officials for their involvement in the  repression of 
Argentina's last military government. But, as prosecutions  threatened 
rank-and-file policemen and soldiers, the military rebelled, and the  government was 
forced to pass an amnesty to prevent civil war. Horacio's  murderers again walked 
with impunity. 
But a generation later, in 2005, the Supreme Court  handed down sweeping 
decision to revisit Argentina's dark past, declaring the  amnesty laws 
unconstitutional, null and void. 
On July 18, Mrs. Gastelu finally saw justice done. A  federal courthouse in 
Buenos Aires sentenced two former police officers, Juan  Carlos Lapuyole and 
Carlos Enrique Gallone, to life in prison for the murder of  Horacio Gastelu and 
29 others. 
But Mrs. Gastelu had mixed emotions. She is  frustrated that justice is 
"incomplete." The court absolved a third defendant  Miguel Timarchi, lacking 
evidence that he was with the group of 30 on the night  of the murders. Time has 
also robbed the case of some of its central  protagonists. Of the ten policemen 
suspected of being involved in the incident,  only three were alive at the time 
the case was reopened in 2003. Gallone and  Lapuyole were both on the lower 
rungs of the police hierarchy. 
Mrs. Gastelu is also frustrated that the focus of the  trial was too narrow. 
Prosecutors and the court investigated her son's murder,  but perhaps left out 
hundreds of others. The 30 prisoners were all held at the  superintendencia 
of the federal police, a small police station in the  heart of downtown Buenos 
Aires, where the government housed a torture center on  the third floor. 
"They've judged those who were responsible for the site that  night, but this was a 
torture center. There were many other victims and others  who participated." 
The incident, known as the "Fatima Massacre," was  emblematic of the 
brutality of Argentina's last military government, which ruled  from 1976 to 1983. On 
August 21, 1976, 30 drugged and illegally detained  prisoners were transferred 
from the superintendencia onto a truck. Guards  drove the prisoners several 
kilometers outside of the city, near the small town  of Fatima. They were 
walked into the woods, strapped with dynamite and summarily  executed. The press, 
under heavy censorship, was not given access to the site  and reported on only 
the general outline of the incident. But the minimal  coverage provided one of 
the first glimpses into the extent of military  repression, and forced the 
government's highest officials to publicly condemn  the incident, while at the 
same time sitting atop a repressive apparatus that  made such incidents 
possible. By the time the military government collapsed,  some 15,000 people had been 
kidnapped by the government. 
The specifics of the incident continue to remain  elusive. Bodies were 
quickly whisked away from the site, and only five victims  were identified at the 
time. The 25 others, some just pieces of scattered  incinerated bodies, were 
marked "NN" - no nombre, "no name" - and buried  in individual graves. They were 
exhumed by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology  team in 1985, when the 
commanders of Argentina's military government were  brought to trial by the nascent 
democratic regime, but they could not be  identified. With advances in genetic 
technology, however, 11 more were  identified in the 1990s. 
For months after Horacio's disappearance, Mrs.  Gastelu searched desperately 
for her son. She asked every official who would  listen at the Libertador 
armed forces command in downtown Buenos Aires.  (Horacio was a recent conscript. 
The armed forces claimed he must have been a  deserter. "So then look for him," 
she chided). She went to the local police. She  asked friends and family if 
anyone had seen Horacio, but nobody gave her an  answer, and nobody knew. 
She met other women with the same dilemma: their  children, too, had 
"disappeared." By 1977, nearly a year after Horacio went  missing, individual pleas 
with officers and government officials were going  nowhere. Together with 14 
other women, Mrs. Gastelu helped form the Mothers of  the Plaza de Mayo, a human 
rights group devoted to finding the whereabouts and  the truth of the 
"disappeared" and bringing attention to the repressive  detention practices of the 
military government. The mothers' organization was  courageous, perhaps suicidal. 
At the time, most opposition to the government was  met with arrest, beatings 
or death. Indeed, one of the 14 founding members,  Azucena Villaflor, was 
herself "sucked up." 
When Democracy returned in 1983, Mrs. Gastelu  continued to march, originally 
in support of the government that promised to  prosecute military and police 
officials responsible for the disappearances. But  Mrs. Gastelu's march soon 
again turned into protest, rallying against the  amnesty law that blocked 
further prosecutions. She and the other mothers marched  (and continue to march) 
every Thursday for 25 years. But it may be too late.  "We're 80 years or older. 
We'll keep fighting; we'll keep marching, but it's  sad. It hurts. "No me 

We have it in our power to begin the world  over again –Thomas Paine

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