December 29, 1990.

December 29, 1990.

The announcement came today that Carlos Menem, ese hijo de puta, pardoned Videla, Massera, and every crook and scumbag that ultimately led to Cristina’s death. That’s right, her death—I received the “truth” I was asking for years ago. I received a call around five years ago from a man with a sad sounding voice, announcing the discovery of Cristina’s remains in a mass grave in rural Córdoba. After several minutes of convincing from the man who claimed to be a governmental investigator, I finally could see this was the truth. It made sense. I immediately called my wife and Nico and my father and told them all the news. My father’s reaction was perhaps the saddest; he just said “bueno” quietly and hung up the phone. Between that moment and his death from cardiac arrest last year, I doubt we mentioned Cristina’s name between us once.

While the agony of living in mystery was gone, new feelings emerged, and I was ridden with grief. María had to hold me as I shuddered and cursed at the ones who brought such sadness to my life, and surely to Cristina’s. I stopped the man on the phone when he started bringing up the various concentration camps where Cristina was held, as at the time I don’t think I could handle that level of morbid detail. However, I still hold fast to my views that Cristina deserves to have her full story heard.

But anyways, back to today, the one thing that made me feel better about Cristina’s death was the belief that the perpetrators of her murder would be soon brought to justice. And initially, they were—Videla and Massera were locked up by Alfonsín in trials that sped by in a whirlwind of two years following the end of the dictatorship. But almost before I had time to celebrate the incarceration of these criminals, Alfonsín succumbed to military pressure and passed the “Punto Final” and “Obedencia Debida” laws. These laws were devastating because they in effect gave amnesty to the officers and policemen who were directly involved in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Cristina. However, while I was initially outraged, I remained solaced by the fact that the overall evildoers—the junta leaders and main generals—were punished, presumably for life.

Yet all this changed today. Menem unraveled everything with these pardons, and I’m scared for Argentina. The military today is holding its coercive power over the government in slightly different but eerily similar ways to the military during the dictatorship. I have been visiting the Plaza de Mayo as often as possible to talk to las Madres and march with them. We all want the same thing: that those who took our loved ones away be put on trial and faced with the crimes they committed. This idea, which I once held optimistically possible in the couple years following the fall of the junta, now seems completely far-fetched and distant. I still hold on to the possibility that I will live to see Cristina’s kidnappers on a witness stand, if only for my sanity.



1 thought on “December 29, 1990.

  1. ssvolk says:

    Such bittersweet news, Manuel. At least you know had her body and could give her a decent burial; your mourning could go to another place. As a country, though, it seems as if Menem has undone everything that we had come to believe: that people would be held responsible for their actions, that there would be no impunity, that there would be a degree, however small, of justice. It’s hard to know where to go from here.

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