By VERA ARMUS —
On Oct. 14, 1978, in the midst of what became known as the Dirty War, my mother’s childhood home in Buenos Aires was invaded by Argentine armed forces, suspicious that she and her family were part of the dissenting socialists who threatened the dictatorship’s authoritative control.
Having heard story after story of “forced disappearances” following similar situations, my mother’s family expected to be taken to the “Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada,” the government’s main concentration camp, and who knows where after that. By some stroke of luck, my mother and her family were left without harm, and Oct. 14 is a day that has, and will always be, engraved in their memories.
Thirty-two years after the official end of this military dictatorship, Argentina is still recovering from the so-called “Dirty War,” a seven-year period of state terrorism during which military powers hunted down and killed leftist guerrillas, political dissidents and individuals who were believed associated with socialism.
Though there have been trials to prosecute those responsible for atrocities, Argentina still has many grievances to redress, as well as wounds to heal.
And despite the successful strides by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, it is likely that Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s newly elected president, could significantly halt efforts to restore social justice to the South American nation, as well as exacerbate already-struggling economic and social conditions for many Argentineans.
“Macri basura, vos sos la dictadura!” (“Macri you piece of garbage, you are the dictatorship!”) protestors chanted in a march outside of the Plaza de Mayo this past Sunday, ahead of the announcement of election results.
How exactly does the new president pose such a threat? For starters, his family background and track record both indicate a problematic context.
The Macri family, owner of Socma, a powerful, multi-faceted company, amassed the majority of its fortune through deals with the “milicos,” or military dictators, during the height of the Dirty War.
Yet more troubling than these direct economic ties with the dictatorial regime is Macri’s reconciliatory stance toward the perpetrators of the Dirty War.
Voting against the bill to continue the prosecution of supporters in 2008, as well as stating to La Nacion that the Argentine people should, “look forward and forget the ghosts of the past,” it seems unlikely that Macri will advance efforts toward justice.
Thus, it is likely that Macri’s administration could end the trials, as well as push the government to adopt a more reconciliatory stance toward those responsible for the inexcusable atrocities committed during the dictatorship.
The ex-mayor of Buenos Aires’ rise to power could also bode significant negative implications for other aspects of Argentina’s future, especially in relation to issues such as poverty and human rights.
Looking at his agenda, one can see that Macri advances a program that favors the rich and exacerbates inequalities for working-class citizens.
Primarily concerned with the business sector with his plan to increase foreign investments and privatize key areas of the economy, Macri has clearly articulated that this is his priority.
To make matters even worse, in 2014, as mayor of Buenos Aires, Macri proposed a city budget with the lowest amount of funds allocated for social housing in the last decade, continuing a trend of cutting funds for those living in shanty towns and “villas miserias.”
Though Argentina ranks higher in GDP than a number of developing countries, it is important to note that it is still considered a developing nation itself, and this lack of consideration poses a significant economic threat to a large sector of the population.
Finally, Macri’s ultra-conservative social views could spur a difficult time for women as well as the LGBT community.
The devout Catholic alienated the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when he told the Buenos Aires newspaper Pagina 12 that he believed homosexuality was a disease, also telling the interviewer that having a gay son would be a problem.
Macri has also stated that he completely opposes abortions at any stage of pregnancy.
Based on these prior sentiments and comments, it is therefore possible that Macri could advance legislation that could endanger the rights and liberties of many Argentineans.
(Written by Vera Armus, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Nov. 22, 2015)