Argentine coup Anniversary observed


By: Laurence Norman
The Washington Post, March 24, 2002


Buenos Aires, Argentina Tens of thousands of Argentines gathered in the capital's central square Sunday to repudiate the country's last military coup 26 years ago.

Around 30,000 people from human rights groups, left wing political parties and families of victims of the 1976-83 military junta marched to the Plaza de Mayo.

"This is a cry for memory, truth and justice," Tati Almeyda, whose son was a victim of the military government, told Argentine television station Cronica.

Other protests occurred in front of a former navy school used as a torture center during the dictatorship and outside the houses of former junta ministers.

Eight thousand people also gathered in Rosario Argentina's third city while smaller protests occurred in northern Jujuy and southern Nequen.

On March 24, 1976, a military junta led by Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla seized power from President Isabel Peron. During the next seven years, at least 8,900 people disappeared, according to a 1985 government report, although human rights groups place the figure at around 30,000.

In Buenos Aires on Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators unfurled a huge banner with the photographs and names of thousands of victims of the military years.

Others carried signs saying "Never Again" and demanding punishment for those responsible for the dictatorship's so-called "Dirty War" against leftist groups.

After democracy returned, top military officers received life sentences for their crimes, only to be pardoned by former President Carlos Menem in 1990. Immunity also was granted to lower-ranking military officials who committed crimes on the orders of superiors.

During Sunday's march, former Nobel Peace Prize winner Alberto Perez Esquevel called on the government of President Eduardo Duhalde to annul laws granting pardons to those involved in the so-called "Dirty War."

"Democracy cannot be built on impunity," he said.

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