December 29, 1990,
What is real, authentic reconciliation? Is it the same as forgiveness? Carlos Menem today pardoned many former junta members including Videla and Massera. He has justified his right to pardon many members of the military because he was tortured and held captive during the dictatorship. How does he claim this right that, to me, seems like a right shared by thousands of people? Many of those people are still unaccounted for and yet he seems so comfortable making this decision. When he first came to power in the fall of 1989, he repeatedly announced that a presidential pardon would be coming soon but continued to postpone his decision.
Alfonsín and Menem have both believed in a “two-demon theory”—that two armed parties are responsible for the escalation of violence in the late 1970s in Argentina. This is preposterous. My father was not part of any “armed party.” When I discuss this rhetoric with him, he shakes his head sadly: “They are trying to lessen their responsibility by pointing fingers” he says to me. Many of the people we know who remain disappeared we know through the union my father was president of—people ranging from working members to activist officials. When we speak with their families they are outraged. I do not understand the justification of pardoning these officers who have caused such an enormous amount of harm. But then I think about what we gain from life sentences. It seems to me that the healing process after such atrocities is so complicated that it is unclear what actions must be taken. But it is clear to me that these sweeping pardons are definitely not the right direction. How far are our officials willing to go in pursuit of “reconciliation”?
Lucas and his university friends argue about Menem’s decisions for hours. They come home and sip maté and I keep quiet as they discuss on and on. I can’t help but feel a bit critical. They were so young during the dictatorship, they did not always know of the disappearances of people in their life. They did not feel the palpable air of suppressed opposition as they walked down the street, kicking soccer balls and craving desserts. It is important that they discuss and stay informed but I wonder how we can try to explain these unexplainable events to them. Even when Father speaks of his experiences, I see Lucas’s furrowed brow but know that these words are merely a translation and fail to capture everything.