Argentina commemorates student kidnappings

argentina-flagBy Balin Chambers

La Plata, Argentina’s second city, commemorated 40 years since the kidnapping of 10 students on September 16th.

On 16 and 17 September 1976, masked military raided the homes of the students aged between 16-18 years old at night, carrying them away to clandestine detention centres. At the time they were campaigning for a cheaper student bus pass. 4 survived and 6 were never seen again. The military adopted techniques such as kidnap, rape, torture and murder to suppress any form of dissent towards General Videla’s dictatorship, under the National Reorganisation process. The events took place from 1968 to 1989. In total in Argentina 30,000 people disappeared without trace being dumped in the River Plate by plane.

Thousands gathered as an act of solidarity to commemorate the day according to local media Télam in La Plata. The event was organised the Union of high school students (UES) and the Federation of high school students (FES).  Nora Ungaro and Pablo Díaz, 2 of the survivors, attended the gathering, as well as the sister of Horacio Ungaro who disappeared.

“I was held for 90 days in Pozo de Banfield (a former clandestine detention centre). I was a witness to what took place, but I came out of that situation” said Pablo Díaz to local media Télam.

“We continue to constantly fight for our human rights so this never happens again in Argentina.”, said 25 year old attendee and student Julio Insaurralde.

Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos(EMDH), a local human rights organisation held workshops in remembrance at schools to educate students. The organisation also put on artistic workshops and displayed large murals in homage to the deceased.

One homage in particular is that of a bricklayer named Jorge Julio López, who was kidnapped once during the dictatorship in 1976 and released 3 years later. He disappeared for a second time when he was due to testify in court in 2006. That was ten years ago this week.

“Today is different to the years of state terrorism but nothing is resolved. There’s impunity and life goes on,” said Andrés Centrone, a coordinator with EMDH.

In August the Obama administration declassified 1,000 documents confirming the CIA’s involvement during Operation Condor. The documents also reveal how the dictatorships of  Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil  worked together to eradicate any form of left-wing influence.

Argentines locally refer to the event as the ‘The Night of the Pencils’ (La Noche de los Lápices in Spanish). A film was made to mark the events.

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