December 29, 1990
Today, Videla, Viola and Massera were pardoned by President Menem. Some others, too. Let go from prison. Free to go about their lives like normal, as if they didn’t destroy a nation.
Pardons are for innocent people kept in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Pardons are not for men who killed thousands. They are for people who got tangled up in laws that aren’t perfect, or mixed up with police who made mistakes, or targeted by corrupt officials. The thousands of blameless people who were detained and killed are the ones who deserved pardons. Where was the sympathetic President for them? Who was there to help them? It’s now the evil, shadowy figures behind atrocities who are rewarded with freedom. This country has truly flipped upside down.
Menem said that he wants to move forward. Must be easy for him to say. Was anyone he loved stolen from him in the middle of the night? He was imprisoned himself for several years, which makes this all even more difficult to comprehend. Menem must feel pain, too. He’s denying himself closure, just like the rest of us. Who does he think he is making happy by doing this? He’s hardly been President for long, and that’s all he is supposed to be anyways. Our President. He is supposed to make political and economic decisions. He’s supposed to veto unconstitutional laws. He isn’t allowed to make decisions for the Argentine mind.
This nation is political and emotional and, most importantly, still in pain. Nobody can tell us how to feel, that the time to be healed is now. Who does he think he is, snapping his fingers and deciding for everyone else that it’s time to be okay? Why can’t we mourn, or at least have respect for the dead? Why can’t we feel the pain that’s been inflicted on us as a nation?
Some of the other teachers and I gathered today at my apartment and just cried over coffee, watching the news. We cried because a weak man has decided to close a book that he didn’t write, a book whose final chapters haven’t been written yet. We cried because letting those men go means that we don’t get closure. We don’t get to hear how they rotted away alone in prison like the bodies laying out in fields that will never be found. Who’s to stop anyone from tracking Videla down like an animal, like the animals in cages that we all used to be, and shooting him in the street?