Vice presidential candidate Victoria Villarruel (La Libertad Avanza, LLA) criticized human rights organizations and families of victims disappeared during the last dictatorship who protested outside the kindergarten where she voted on Sunday. Speaking to the media, she said that a mural painted there in remembrance of the disappeared was “as out of place as painting [a picture of] Barney the bear [sic] in a cemetery.”
In her comparison, Villarruel was actually referencing a dinosaur from the children’s show Barney & Friends.
Protesters waited for the vice presidential candidate to arrive this morning at the kindergarten where she was voting in Caseros, Buenos Aires province. They carried posters with the pictures and names of their disappeared relatives hanging from their necks. At one point, someone even started playing the Peronist anthem, seemingly from inside a house.
At the same time, supporters of the LLA candidate gathered there and chanted “Victoria, Victoria” when she arrived.
“Today is democracy’s day, so any other protest is out of place,” Villarruel told the press after voting, referencing the families of the disappeared. “I am sorry that this moment, which should have been calm for the neighbors, ended up being tainted by the political bias of a minority sector of society.”
Villarruel said “this is the first time that the daughter of a Malvinas war veteran [could become] vice president,” adding that it “shouldn’t bother protesters.”
“We’ve had terrorists and children of terrorists as public officers before,” she said, repeating an accusation made by some opposition sectors against politicians who were activists in the 70s and were themselves victims of kidnapping and torture. The same claims have been made against some children of disappeared victims who have entered politics.
“Those who don’t like [the idea] that democracy includes us all are violent,” she said.
Villarruel made several denialist claims during the electoral campaign. She has said that there was “a war” in Argentina between guerrillas and the military government during the dictatorship (1976-1983). Those claims are part of the “two demons” theory, also known as “dirty war,” which states that the Argentine military committed “excessive” abuses of power to end political violence that armed groups had initiated.
This theory suggests that these were two equal and opposite forces. Julio César Strassera, the prosecutor of the 1985 trial against the dictatorship’s military commanders, rejected it. In his closing arguments, he stressed that there was “no war,” dirty or otherwise.
“War is horrifying enough to admit an additional qualifier of ‘dirty,’” Strassera said. “It is a euphemism to cover up the activities of people who acted more like gang members than soldiers.”
Villarruel is the leader and founder of Civil Association of the Victims of Argentine Terrorism (CELTYV, by its Spanish acronym), an organization with strong ties to the military sector. She is known for meeting repressors who have life sentences for crimes against humanity in jail and advocating for their freedom. Villarruel’s father and uncle were military officers who took part in repressive actions before and during the dictatorship.