Thursday, November 08, 2007

Plaza de Mayo, AM Radio Remembers


Between 1930 and 1973, Argentina suffered 30 military coups, with only a single president serving an entire term. In September 1975, the highest level of the military approved a coup that overthrew the established Peron government. During the next eight years, a military dictatorship characterized by government-organised terrorism aimed primarily at students, young workers and intellectuals, took control. Media censorship was rampant during this regime and all unions, political parties and universities fell under military control. At this time, General Jorge Rafael Videla stated that in order to guarantee the security of the state, all the necessary people would die. Suspected activists, their friends and relatives were often abducted from their homes in the middle of the night and moved to government detention centers in which they were tortured and eventually killed. These individuals who disappeared without a trace are referred to as the Disappeared. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 individuals disappeared over this time period. In March 1976, the figure was nine people disappeared for every two found murdered. People who protested these atrocities soon became one of the Disappeared or were murdered themselves.

Abducted women who were pregnant were kept captive in detention centers and military hospitals until the birth of their children, and then murdered shortly after delivery. Babies and young children of abducted individuals were also abducted, based on the assumption that subversives breed subversives. Abducted children were handed over to neighbours, given to orphanages or retained as war booty for childless couples who were part of the security forces. An estimated 220 children were abducted with their parents or born in captivity to abducted women.

On April 30, 1977, four mothers gathered at Plaza de Mayo to draw attention to their plight as they attempted to find their missing children. They were soon joined by the "Grandmothers", women who had given up hope of finding their own children, but believed that their grandchildren might have survived. This year is 30 years since the establishment of the "mothers of the disappeared". They meet at the Plaza every Thursday afternoon, partly to sell their literature, but also to process around the plaza for half-an-hour. I noticed in the front of the procession was a man carrying a radio sign. The mothers have their own website and AM radio station with studios near the Buenos Aires obelix, in the heart of downtown. The 10kW transmitter covers most of the capital city and up as far as Montevideo thanks to the marshy soil. I am surprised to note that the website claims I am only the 931st visitor - I guess counter has gone round a few times. The radio station has now taken a more revolutionary line than in the past. They were re-broadcasting a programme from Radio Rebelde in Cuba when I listened in.
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