Argentina’s right-wing candidates praise brutal dictatorship, stage stunt honoring ‘victims of left violence’
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest outside the Buenos Aires City Legislature against an event organized by Victoria Villarruel, the running mate of Freedom Advances party presidential candidate Javier Milei, to honor 'victims of armed leftist groups.' The pair of candidates has been trying hard to rehabilitate the brutal military dictatorship of the 1970s and '80s. | AP

Human rights activists surrounded the Buenos Aires city legislature on Monday to protest at an event honoring “victims of armed left-wing groups” during the 1970s, when Argentina was engulfed by political violence.

The tribute was arranged by Victoria Villarruel, the running mate of far-right presidential candidate Javier Milei.

Protesters labelled Villarruel’s stunt an attempt to change the narrative about crimes against humanity committed by Argentina’s last military dictatorship.

Villaruel, who has long defended military officers convicted of crimes under the bloody 1976-83 dictatorship, told the event: “For 40 years, the victims of terrorism were erased from memory, swept under the rug of history.”

Police set up barriers around the legislature to keep back hundreds of demonstrators, who said the event sought to reinstall the idea that the military dictatorship committed its crimes as part of a civil war with left-wing guerrilla groups.

The event took place just weeks after Milei rocked Argentina’s political landscape by receiving 30% of the votes—more than any of the other 21 presidential candidates—in national primaries.

Among the protesters was Cecilia De Vincenti, whose mother, Azucena Villaflor, founded the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo group to demand information about people who disappeared during the dictatorship and was herself detained and killed.

“I think the votes that Milei got in the primaries and Villarruel being his running mate makes them feel empowered and that the people will support these things. But I don’t think that’s true,” De Vincenti said.

Argentina has held 296 trials relating to dictatorship-era crimes since 2006, the year after amnesty laws were repealed. Those trials have led to the conviction of 1,115 people, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Human rights lawyer Alan Iud, who has participated in trials relating to dictatorship-era crimes, said it was clear the gathering was “something more than a simple tribute event.”

He said there was concern among human rights activists that a Milei victory in the presidential election could change the way dictatorship-era crimes are judged.

Argentina’s military junta is widely considered the deadliest of the dictatorships that ruled much of Latin America in the 1970s and ’80s. It detained, tortured, and killed people suspected of opposing the regime. Human rights groups estimate that 30,000 were murdered, many of whom disappeared without a trace.

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Roger McKenzie
Roger McKenzie

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper. He is the author of the book "African Uhuru: The Fight for African Freedom in the Rise of the Global South" published by Manifesto Press.