Wetenschap - 6 juni 2002

Revival of Dutch concern about Argentina

Revival of Dutch concern about Argentina

The black period in Argentina's recent history, the 'dirty war', received unprecedented exposure in the Dutch media last year after the announcement by crown prince Willem Alexander that he intended to marry Maxima Zorreguieta. Her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, was minister of agriculture during the military dictatorship that was responsible for the 'disappearance' of thousands. The wedding took place but Jorge Zorreguieta was not allowed to attend.

Tuesday this week the author and grand old lady of Dutch human rights activism, Mies Bouhuys, came to Wageningen to lecture for Studium Generale on the 'cloak of oblivion' which continues to shroud the history of Argentina. During the military dictatorship that ruled from 1976 to 1983, thirty thousand opponents of the regime 'disappeared'. But, as Bouhuys pointed out in her animated lecture, it took little to be labelled as an opponent. University professors, students and journalists were by definition suspicious as they were considered liable to infiltration by subversives. The now well-known grandmothers and mothers of the Plaza del Mayo, mothers of the 'disappeared' were the first to rise up against the regime. But even when democracy was restored in 1983 the perpetrators of the crimes were not brought to justice. Under the threat of a new military coup, the newly elected president introduced laws that granted amnesty for the members of the previous junta.

Bouhuys brought attention to the fact that the struggle for openness and justice continues today. Now it is the children of the victims of the disappearances that are taking action by going to the houses of those responsible and writing their names and deeds on the outside of the houses so that neighbours know who they are living with. Bouhuys argued that it is impossible to build a new society before those responsible are brought to justice. But there is hope she believes, despite the deep economic crisis the country is currently undergoing. An increasing number of voices are being heard that the amnesty is unconstitutional and that the cases against the leaders of the military junta should be reopened.

Joris Tielens

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