Outrage after dictatorship torturer who disappeared 26 people holds blow-out party

Guests included a repressor friend he staged a jailbreak with in 2013. Survivors say it makes a mockery of justice

On February 3, Jorge Antonio Olivera and his wife Marta Ravasi celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary with a party. They went all-out: popular singer and former Tucumán governor Palito Ortega performed. There was a catering service. Wine flowed freely.

When their friends and family posted pictures of the celebration online, it hit the news. Olivera is serving three life sentences for crimes against humanity during Argentina’s last dictatorship. He has been convicted of forcibly disappearing 26 people, murdering 6, and kidnapping 120, as well as committing torture, robbery, and rape.

Now, the San Juan provincial judiciary is investigating whether Olivera, a former military officer serving his sentence under house arrest, broke the terms of his detention — and survivors are calling for him to go back to jail. 

San Juan prosecutor Francisco Maldonado has also ordered the arrest of fellow convicted repressor Gustavo Ramón De Marchi, who was photographed at the party with his wife. De Marchi, a fellow ex-military officer, is currently at liberty after his two prison sentences were suspended because of his apparent ill health. But Maldonado pointed out that the ruling was annulled in July 2023, and asked San Juan’s Criminal Federal Oral Court to jail him again.

De Marchi and his wife at Olivera’s party

‘It undermines the sentence for serious crimes’

On February 15, a group of San Juan dictatorship survivors wrote a letter, published in local paper Diario 13 San Juan, demanding Olivera be sent back to prison. “The sentences handed down for such serious crimes cannot be undermined by the misuse of a humanitarian instrument such as house arrest,” the letter reads.

In Argentina, prisoners may be granted house arrest because of considerations such as old age and ill health.

When it comes to flouting their jail sentences, Olivera and De Marchi have form. In 2013, they escaped from the Buenos Aires Military Hospital — Olivera had recently received his first life sentence and De Marchi had been given 25 years. De Marchi was recaptured in 2015 and Olivera, in 2017, although he was granted house arrest in 2021. 

Olivera was first arrested in Italy in 2000, during a 25th-anniversary trip with his wife. The request came from the French judiciary, regarding the disappearance of French-Argentine model and Montoneros militant Marie Anne Erize in 1976. Olivera’s surviving victims reported that he used to brag about raping her during her kidnapping.

Forged death certificate

Olivera spent 43 days in a Rome jail waiting to be extradited to France, but was freed after his lawyers presented a death certificate for Marie Anne Erize, which allegedly proved his innocence. Shortly afterwards, the Italian government determined that the certificate was fake. Olivera evaded justice until 2008, when he was caught at his wife’s house in Buenos Aires province.

Maldonado and prosecutor Dante Vega wrote that Olivera holding the party “trivializes the goal of the sentence” and called for a halt to any such events in the future.

“What a beautiful night we had!” said guest Cecilia Pando (left) in a Facebook post showing a picture of her and Palito Ortega (center). Pando is a well-known pro-repressor activist and dictatorship apologist

The San Juan court handling the case also accepted a request by Vega for De Marchi to undergo new medical exams. Last year, he was declared not fit to stand trial for mental health reasons. However, De Marchi appeared to be in good health at the party, and Vega is now asking experts to evaluate whether he faked his symptoms.

Meanwhile, the survivors who wrote the letter fear that such an overt mockery of Argentina’s judicial system is a symptom of the rise in dictatorship denialism in Argentina. 

“Our worry grows greater considering the evident link between Olivera’s party and the resurgence of state terrorism denialist theories firmly defended by the current Vice President Victoria Villarruel,” they wrote.

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