Estela de Carlotto is the president of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo
In Argentina, “Memory, Truth and Justice” constitute the legitimacy principle of this democracy that we have been able to achieve, the longest in our nation’s history so far.
The human rights movement’s demand for Memory, Truth and Justice has been vital to restoring the social bonds that were destroyed by the dictatorship and the decades of impunity that were a kind of extension of it.
The aftereffects of state terrorism remain. The proof is in the grandchildren we are still searching for and the thousands of disappeared people whose bodies are still missing. The people responsible for these crimes against humanity must continue to stand trial, and for that to happen the judiciary needs to speed up its pace, as we have already demanded of them so many times.
Soon after the return of democracy, dictatorship leaders were prosecuted in the Trial of the Juntas. Still, afterwards, the pressure exerted by those who took part in the genocide resulted in the passing of the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the presidential pardons for convicted commanders were a tough blow. The democratic State itself was promoting the institutional neglect of the crimes they had committed.
Years later, the Trials for the Truth were transcendental in the face of the impossibility of moving forward with prosecutions. Only from 2003 onwards, after the annulment of the impunity laws, could we state that we live in a full democracy. Since then, Argentina has stood as a global example of the pursuit and prosecution of crimes against humanity, and a large part of society embraced the demand for Memory, Truth and Justice.
This process was first promoted by the government of Néstor Kirchner, followed by Cristina Fernández, and today, by Alberto Fernández’s administration. And a sector of the judiciary has understood the importance of not letting dictatorship crimes go unpunished.
If there had been total impunity for state terrorism in Argentina, ours would be a democracy without justice. If we had chosen the path of partial amnesties or commuted sentences, many agents of genocide would have kept their privileges and would now be walking freely despite having tortured, murdered and forcibly disappeared human beings. Neither did we choose the way of special tribunals. Instead, our answer was justice served by common courts, as it should be for any citizen.
All this should make us feel truly proud of our country. It must also drive us to redouble our commitment to defend this progress against deniers, who try to falsify and trivialize history with the ultimate goal of disciplining the majorities and abolishing their rights.
Almost 20 years ago, the Argentine State apologized for the atrocious crimes of state terrorism. The Grandmothers, like other human rights organizations, continue to fight for Memory, Truth and Justice with love and joy, without seeking revenge, without rancor, in peace, and this is the message we leave for future generations.
Mauricio Macri’s government was a huge setback: political persecution; institutional violence, collusion between government officials, judges, prosecutors, businessmen and journalists; an unpayable foreign debt. We are still suffering the consequences of this latest neoliberal experience.
Not to mention the establishment of hate speech, which Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner suffered firsthand in the assassination attempt against her. Or lawfare, the almost mafia-like system that harasses popular leaders and politicians in order to rule them out of the democratic game, at the behest of members of the country’s real power in collusion with the judicial corporation and concentrated media.
A country that forgets is a country that repeats its history. We don’t want that part of our history to happen ever again. We want to have a free country, where we can argue, hold conflicting opinions, think differently, live together, be brothers and sisters, and have children born with the assurance of a welcoming family, a home, food, education, leisure, enjoyment.
State policies set the path for a country, they either guarantee or hinder processes of democracy, justice and expanding rights. We are about to celebrate 40 years of democracy. We need to keep supporting it at any cost, and the way to do it is through education and memory. Let’s count on our children and young people — they are the seeds of the future.
We need to keep writing about our democratic history every day, with words and actions, on the streets, in classrooms, workplaces, with our vote, with community organizing. It’s a question of defending rights and conquering new ones. And we will never let anyone steal our dream of a fair, supportive, and joyful nation, like the one our 30,000 wanted.