Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Argentina: Controversy Over Potential Videla Burial Site

Officials of the Argentine city of Mercedes are none too pleased that their neighborhood will reportedly be chosen as the burial site for former “Dirty War”-era dictator Jorge Videla.

“He must have been the most nefarious person this country has ever had and it’s a weight that the people of Mercedes must carry,” said Marcelo Melo, the city’s human rights government representative.

Despite his “repudiation” of burying the infamous ex-strongman in Mercedes, Melo noted “we cannot prevent his family from bringing his remains to privately-owned burial plots.”

Some residents of the city where Videla was born and raised are upset over the burial plans announced by the late ruler’s lawyer.

“We had to put up with many hardship during the dictatorship.  I don’t want him in my city,” said Aida Ibaldi according to infobae.com.

“Videla’s family has his body, which was not tortured or abused, and they can bury him when and where they want,” said Juan Ignacio Ustarroz, the nephew of one of the tens of thousands of Argentines who “disappeared” during Videla’s five years in power.

In anticipation of the burial, nineteen social and political organizations will hold a protest against Videla on Wednesday night.  The demonstrators are expected to gather outside of the cemetery in Mercedes where posters of some of the local political activists killed under the Videla military regime have been placed.

The 87-year-old passed away in a civilian prison on Friday where he was serving a fifty-year sentence for the illegal kidnapping of dozens of babies from political prisoners.   Videla had also been serving a life sentence since 2010 for the deaths of thirty-one dissidents during his de facto presidency.

Videla’s death comes as proceedings began in a trial over Plan Condor, a secret intelligence operation by South American dictators to kidnap and murder their opponents. Videla was one of the most senior former officials indicted by prosecutors and he neglected to provide testimony to the case.  Nevertheless, prosecutors hope there is some evidence they can use that Videla has not taken to his grave:

The trial over Operation Condor will resume today without former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, who died early Friday. A prosecutor in the Plan Condor trial recognized yesterday that the trial would “no longer be the same” without the former dictator present.

Prosecutors are considering using a few of Videla’s last interviews with journalists as evidence. Just four days before he died, Videla had remarked that he considered himself a “political prisoner” in a judicial system “without justice” which is why “it makes no sense to defend myself.”

Videla was one of 25 people charged in the case, which also includes Reynaldo Benito Bignone who led the military junta from 1982 to 1983.
The Operation Condor involved cooperation between the US-backed right-wing dictatorships of Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil. 
Despite the possibility that Videla’s interviews could be used as evidence, the prosecutor of the Plan Condor observed that the trial “will never be the same.”

“A little bit of hope has died along with Videla due to all the things he never revealed or could have said,” admitted Pablo Ouviña in a radio interview this week.

Video Source– YouTube via euronews

Online Sources - infobae.com; La Voz del Interior; Europa Press; Buenos Aires Herald; BBC News; La Nacion

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