Today is the most painful day we’ve experienced since you disappeared. When the military generals of the juntas were first put on trial and convicted, I had hope that something was final, that a chapter had closed in our history. We still had no answers about your disappearance, Mari, but at least the leaders responsible were condemned. The 1984 Nunca Más documentary included your photo in the opening sequence; mami, papi and I watched it broadcasted together and cried. How can a justice system function when trials are ignored, convictions are overturned? Carlos Menem pardoned the Videla, Viola, Agosti, Massera, Lambruschini…
After years of fighting for justice, after countless demonstrations where we held up your photo and called out “Nunca Más”, we are told we still don’t deserve justice? Menem’s announcement was long awaited; we knew there was going to be a step back but had no idea he would go this far. The pardon is necessary “to heal without more ado the bleeding wound of the Argentine body,” he said. Argentina needs reconciliation and peace.
Reconciliation? With whom should I reconcile? The generals who ordered torture? Who brought death and destruction into my family? Who ripped apart Argentine society and twisted Christian values and national pride to fit their story of righteousness in the face of supposed subversion? Menem’s speech reminds me of Pope John Paul II’s reaction to the war in the Malvinas in 1982. Remember that, Mari? I was so angry. I am still so angry. We don’t want reconciliation and peace, I’ve been saying that for years and so has every single human rights organization since that time. We can’t forget. We can’t heal the “bleeding wound of Argentine society” without identifying and punishing the people responsible for creating that wound in the first place.
This country has been tortured and lied to long enough. The last seven years I’ve done nothing but try to find answers. I joined SERPAJ as a university student and ended up becoming a community organizer and educator. I have brought these stories to countless commissions, human rights groups, and Catholic community organizations. I hoped to become a school counselor or educator that addressed the issues of post-dictatorship and history in secondary school classrooms. We need to be able to talk to our children about what happened under the military regime. But it’s been seven years and the language surrounding torture and disappearance is still about counterinsurgency, about the necessity and legitimate use of force by the military to put Argentina back together. Carlos Menem placed blame equally on political insurgents and on the military for the turbulence of the regime.
I’m too angry to write anymore, Mari. You have been gone for so long. I can’t remember your movements or your laughter in the same way I used to – your image has been reduced in my mind to that same photograph we use over and over again at marches and demonstrations. You’re just a face in a crowd of desaparecidos, a crowd that doesn’t deserve memory or justice by our government.