Human rights organizations, government officials, and even Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich rejected Javier Milei’s denialist statements regarding the last military dictatorship made during Sunday’s presidential debate. “He went too far,” Bullrich said.
“There weren’t 30,000 [disappeared],” Milei said regarding the number of victims dissapeared by the military government during the last dictatorship.
“There were 8,753,” he said. This is the number of dissapeared cited in the report made by the National Commission on Disappeared People (CONADEP, by its Spanish initials), which was assembled to investigate the dictatorship’s crimes and was released in 1984.
He also endorsed the “two demons” or “dirty war” denialist theory, saying that there was a war in the 1970s in which armed guerrilla groups committed crimes that were equivalent to those of the military government.
During the debate, Milei said the military government “engaged in exceses,” referencing crimes such as rape, torture, and the murder of thousands of detained people. He added that there was no “denialism” in his statements.
Milei’s statement echoed the position of military junta leader Emilio Eduardo Massera. In the 1985 trial against the repressors, Massera said there had been “a war” between the military government and “terrorists.” If the military engaged in “excess [violence]”, he said, “it was exceptional.”
“Milei has brutally offended the families that have lost their children as well as us grandmothers, whose pain is twofold. We are searching for our children and their babies born in captivity,” said head of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo Estela de Carlotto. “He is giving an exact number as if he knows each of their names.”
The Víctor Basterra association, made up of survivors of the clandestine detention center that operated in the former Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA, by its Spanish initials), released a statement condemning Milei’s words.
“Milei not only tried to lie to the public about the number of disappeared, but also attempted to revive the ‘two demons’ theory, which was rejected by the judiciary and human rights organizations,” they said
The Human Rights Secretariat also condemned Milei, saying that his statements are reminiscent of the dictatorship’s own justification of their crimes. They added that the exact number of disappeared people “is not known because of the illegal and clandestine nature of the state’s actions, especially regarding armed and security forces during that time.”
“There still is a pact of impunity among those responsible for these crimes, which is why the exact number and identity of the victims, as well as their final destination, have never been revealed,” the secretariat said, adding that this procedure is common to other dictatorships all over the world. The number of victims “is constantly growing,” and that to this day they are still receiving reports about the crimes.
The Argentine chapter of human rights organization Amnesty Internatinal also rejected Milei’s statements. “Those weren’t ‘excesses’. It wasn’t ‘a war’. It was state-sponsored terrorism. The number is open because there are bodies that remain dissapeared and there are things that we still don’t know. This open denounciation is a matter of human rights. Memory, truth, and justice,” they said in a press release published on X.
Different political forces against Milei
Members of ruling coalition Unión por la Patria (UxP) and leftist Frente de Izquierda-Unidad (FIT-U) hit back against Milei for his claims. Even Bullrich from Juntos por el Cambio, the opposing coalition that has criticized human rights organizations and UxP’s human rights policies, linking them to corruption, said he “went too far.”
Bullrich said that the number of disappeared people during the dictatorship “is something you can discuss,” adding that there are “other deaths and murders that must be acknowledged,” referring to the victims of armed organizations.
“But being a denialist and denying the dictatorship is going too far,” she said during an interview with AM 750 radio station on Monday
In another interview with Continental radio station, Bullrich mentioned that the number Milei cited is in the CONADEP and that there is another “symbolic and historical number [of disappeared people], which is 30,000.”
“Killing 8,000 or 30,000 is outrageous. The violent tragedy that happened in Argentina is outrageous,” she said
FIT-U’s presidential candidate, Myriam Bregman, said in a press scrum on Sunday that she was “the only one that rejected denialism” in the debate, and that she “vindicated the 30,000 disappeared people as fighters.”
After Sunday’s debate, President Alberto Fernández said in a post on X, without mentioning Milei, that it is “inconceivable for someone to keep justifying the genocidal dictatorship that tortured, murdered, stole babies and changed their identities, disappeared people, and condemned thousands of Argentines to exile.”
Fernández added that he is “sorry that we still have to listen to denialist voices.”