The legacy of military coups

Image: Artem Beliakin


The genocidal persecution of the Argentine military imposed the challenge to each one of preserving their own humanity in the act of resistance to the barbarian

The legacy of military coups is the blood that spurts from open bodies and continues to flow through historical memory until difficult processes of political and social agreement are achieved, but not without the due judgments in the bars of the courts recognizing the crimes of public agents and, finally, paying homage to the victims, society can redirect energies towards the future, and no longer remain absorbed in the past, but through the living memory of those who were violently excluded from society. By transgressing the civilizational pact leveraged by the weight of the insanity of the use of violence as a political instrument, any expectation of the future is prohibited.

Suffering, witnessing or resisting the powerful wretches and their crushing practice of human bodies and hopes is not a simple task nor risk-free. It never was, nor can it be. Rodolfo Walsh (1927-1977) was an admirable Argentine intellectual and journalist, capable of articulating brilliant texts and mustering his intelligence to resist the Argentine military dictatorial regime imposed on March 24, 1976, and which presented itself in its historic court as a great challenge and that left deep marks for an entire generation. In Walsh, his keenness, filled with compassion and solidarity, was tempered by daring action, someone who exercised his craft in dangerous times, in which the press should align itself in the same direction as the rifles pointed, because to stand against them was equivalent to to assume the proximity of the end.

Walsh's intellectual trajectory featured prominently in the most luminous pages in the history of Argentine investigative journalism – it is notable that his book "Operation Massacre(1957) anticipates “Cold blood” (1966) by Truman Capote – while that of his military executioners to the long list of criminal prosecutions, and subsequent conviction for crimes of all kinds, including kidnapping of babies, torture, rape, theft of property, kidnapping and serial murders , something that, given the magnitude of the facts, came to be qualified as crimes against humanity, which would render Jorge Rafael Videla prison for life. Walsh's investigative journalism would find a decisive moment when he devoted himself to writing and publishing news that the censored press could not convey and, thus, informing the population about the first disappearances, kidnappings and the appearance of mangled bodies thrown into the sea by the military and later found off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay.

Walsh wrote the last and important text published on March 24, 1977. Entitled “Open letter from a writer to the Military Junta, a critical assessment on the occasion of the passing of the first year of the Argentine military dictatorship headed by Videla, seconded by Massera and Agosti. Regime classified by the distinguished General Balza as violent and criminal, high ranks like Videla betrayed the unstable regime of “Isabelita” Perón, however, constitutionally legitimized. With the coup that some sectors of the left did not believe could happen, Videla and his people soon dedicated themselves to organizing and implementing state terrorism to sweep the country away from the risk of communism, following an orientation similar to the process that had begun in Brazil in 1964, as well as as in neighboring Uruguay and Chile – under the bloodthirsty Pinochet regime since September 1973 while Perón was elected in October of the same year –, but also in Paraguay and Bolivia in its various phases. The day after the publication of his famous “Open letter”, on the corner of the streets of Buenos Aires – San Juan and Entre Ríos – Walsh was machine-gunned in broad daylight by the military regime's assassins, whose homicidal character he had denounced with all the letters in his “Open letter" Last day. Walsh declared fidelity to his principles, but also the certainty and certainty of the persecution he would suffer from those who, many years later, were tried and convicted for his crimes against humanity, among which Videla and Massera.

On the day that his daughter María Victoria (Vicki), resistant Montonera, was surrounded along with his four companions by 150 soldiers, the option of all was suicide rather than letting himself be caught. The resistance fought with the weapons it had, few against trained Armed Forces, well armed and without legal limits for confrontation. They fought with the means and possibilities against the political regime that was oriented and applied an economic policy that amplified the scale of its atrocities, a reality to which Walsh's text pointed when he said that “the explanation of his crimes should be sought in the soil. major atrocity that punishes millions of human beings with planned misery”. Poverty was not, and still is not, a random variable in rich countries such as Argentina and Brazil, but rather the result of planning to enhance the concentration of wealth.

The production of misery in rich countries like Brazil requires effective planning, and in the case of Argentina Walsh also identified a variable beyond economic policy, namely health policy, since then, as today, budgets are reduced under complete science that the death production statistics are potentiated, and thus concluded Walsh accusing the Argentine Military Board: “Since these were desired and sought goals, we reduced the assumption of public health to less than a third of military expenses, Suppressing even free hospitals, hundreds of doctors, professionals and technicians are suppressed by the exodus caused by terror, the low sueldos or the «rationalization»”. The intention to kill was patent, and it was always evident among the Latin American military and the ultra-right power groups and their undisguised neo-Nazi approach.

It was against this picture of infamy and oppression that resistance groups rose, but in the face of the savagery of the system it was commonplace at the time for members of groups resistant to the regime to have a cyanide capsule in their possession to have the option of not having their lives exposed to unspeakable suffering and thus choose whether, when and how to die. The Montonero group he was with Vicki when faced with the massive siege of uniformed jackals after unsuccessful armed resistance, he chose to end their lives using pistols rather than let their bodies be taken by uniformed criminals whose barbarity was practiced in its approximately 500 concentration camps (“Clandestine Detention Centers"[CCD]) soon became widely known. They were spaces where the only rule was the exception to the national legal order. Everything was possible there, there was no law, not even God, and perhaps it is doubtful that the Devil himself dared to enter that space managed by soldiers trained for torture and murder by the US, “skills” also taught to their Brazilian, Uruguayan, Bolivian, Chileans, Paraguayans etc.

Unable to say goodbye physically, Walsh wrote an emotional letter to his daughter, aware that his decision to commit suicide along with his other companions was due to his full knowledge of the treatment reserved for those imprisoned by the regime of criminals in uniform, since there were already multiple testimonies about what happened to the thousands who had fallen, treatment that would not have been admitted to prisoners in a real war such as the one in which the military intervened in the confrontation with England over the Malvinas Islands, in which there was not even a close case of treatment of English militaries such as the Argentine Armed Forces reserved for their own citizens.

The murderers in uniform decorated with high ranks and low character who occupied positions of command in the Argentine Armed Forces during the regime established on March 24, 1976, as well as their Latin American “colleagues”, were not interested in submitting to any conventions international standards, codes of honor or the practical celebration of military virtues, and not even Christian precepts. Their exclusive dynamo was the blood shed from lacerated bodies, which served them as a tragic liquid whose intoxicating power only occurs in barbarian minds. These are the ones who decided to apply military violence to non-military objectives, something unjustifiable, criminal and punishable as the most serious of crimes, not least when perpetrated against civilian populations, and through the application of internal law when the victims are their own. own people.

Aware of the seriousness of the crime against humanity committed against the Argentine people, Walsh recognized in his public letter to the Military Board that the treatment reserved by the military for its prisoners was “the skinning in life, the mutilation of limbs, unlimited torture of duration or method, which seeks, at the same time, moral degradation and betrayal”, a method similar to that adopted by the other Latin American dictatorships of the period. The regime had chosen this policy, and from its persistent application in practice, it is not possible to infer that these were mistakes or occasional deviations by some exaggerated military segments, since, for example, the creation of 500 concentration camps across the country, as well as the “rules ” in force, just as the policy of throwing narcotized living bodies into the sea required planning and submission to a hierarchical chain that involved the prisoners but also the availability of resources and personnel to carry out the task of serving their compatriots as “food of fish”, the bad luck of military slang to try to hide the fact of throwing live people overboard. Capable of imprisoning and reducing civilians to the impossibility of reacting, then drugging them and thus ending their lives by throwing them overboard alive, it remains to be questioned whether the US military “training” has reduced the military’s notion of honor to this Latin American? Is this the training that soldiers receive between the closed walls of the barracks and on their visits to the no less obscure US military spaces?

In Argentina, as in Brazil, there were no deviations on the part of the agents of the coercive apparatus, since military men that they were, strictly followed the orders of their superiors, and on the subject Walsh would affirm, expanding his analysis to the policy of the regime in his “Open letter” that “Five thousand disappeared, ten thousand arrested, four thousand dead, tens of thousands of exiles are the naked figure of this terror. Ordinary prisons were closed, they created ustedes in the main garrisons of the country, virtual concentration camps where no judge, lawyer, journalist, international observer enters”. The re-edition of concentration camps in Latin America recovered the Nazi culture, as well as its ideology of extermination of the “communist enemy”, an interest that was shared by the USA with National Socialism, although the latter had the pretext of involvement in war, while the North American empire would only package its purpose in times of peace for merely commercial and geopolitical interests.

Kidnappings, transporting individuals to spaces of exception and torture houses like those that the US still maintains in different parts of the world are strategies that keep equivalence in their level of disconnection from the rule of law with the Argentine concentration camps that were well designed by Walsh. None of that caused strangeness or seemed reproachable to the military members of the Argentine Military Junta, but a mere necessary resource to fight the greatest North American enemy, communism. They disregarded Walsh's warning that the "causes that have changed more than twenty years ago the resistance of the Argentine people will not be missing, but aggravated by the memory of the damage caused and the revelation of the atrocities committed", and thus in general, the ideologies did not they are killed even when many of their main actors are lost in a bloodbath, which only feeds the set of radically attacked libertarian ideas.

The Argentine Armed Forces, as well as those of Brazil, Uruguay and other Latin American countries, were called by the siren that unites capital and violence under the aegis of imperialist fascism under the communist ghost and promptly heeded the call to crush their own peoples, carrying out the task with refinements of perversity. The angle from which the Argentine military observed their barbarism was very diverse, because as Walsh would say, “What you call successes are mistakes, those who recognize mistakes are crimes and what they omit are calamities” and, we might add, the what bloodthirsty dictators call virtues, popular-libertarian society qualifies as horrendous crimes; what criminals in uniform qualify as a regime linked to the realization of plans of religiosity and faith that are typically Western, at the limit, is nothing more than the most evident demonstration of the presence of evil in the world; and all that they adopt as punishment and punishment for “subversives”, on the other hand, human rights defenders understand as the most serious vilifications to the body and respect for dignity.

Walsh was fully aware that Vicki he also knew that the Argentine Armed Forces were facing the resistance as if it were a war, that is, with the renaming of opponents to “internal enemies”, in a clear adaptation of the French doctrine that, in turn, had been reconstructed for the purposes of legitimizing the “war” in Algeria, which was nothing more than the iron and fire effort of a people to free itself from the French colonial yoke. Walsh wrote that his Vicki “I knew perfectly well that in a war with these characteristics, the sin was not not to speak, but to capitulate. He always carried a cyanide pill with him, the same one with which our friend Paco Urondo was killed, with which so many others achieved a final victory over barbarism”. Cyanide was the final movement of independence and control over itself in the face of the uniforms in the service of the oligarchy and their North American partners unwilling to give up any space for political guidance that would eventually reduce their profitability in the face of the allocation of resources and wealth to the development of their countries, a practice that is, after all, contrary to the face of colonialism.

The military culture that was being impregnated in Latin America in the post-World War II period was one of indoctrination for the reorientation of the Armed Forces of the continent to the terms of the North American National Security Doctrine. From this perspective, the Armed Forces should stick to internal security, seeking and neutralizing internal enemies, since in the Cold War plan it would be the empire that would be in charge of security on a planetary scale and in the Southern Hemisphere in particular. The Armed Forces of Latin America were being shifted to the role of exercisers, de facto, with moderating power, endowed with competence to interfere in the political order when it suited the oligarchy and the empire, even when they did not effectively possess constitutional competence to do so. Even so, the Armed Forces silently assumed the position of guardians of the political order, in clear violation of the mandate of the region's political charters.

In this way, the anti-democratic culture of contempt for the principle of subordination to civil power was created and disseminated within the Armed Forces, which is not a sign of its weakness, but of its strength; this is a sign of frank respect for the institutions and an indisputable demonstration of value. In reality, the Armed Forces despise the idea that the sign of weakness and pusillanimity is their practical incorporation into foreign Armed Forces. It is indisputable that the promotion, support or perpetration of coups d'état embodies all the vileness and cowardice that can stain the Armed Forces, with their pretense of reducing civil society to force, disarmed, by the very weapons over which the people are legitimate sovereign over to his employment, and that he never entrusts them to use against himself.

When guns speak, the political word lies, oscillating between contempt and failure, and so it was on that hard night that followed the loss of his daughter, when Walsh commented that he had dreamed of a man who said to him on the train: “I suffer a lot. I wanted to go to sleep and wake up in a year", to which Walsh added that "He spoke for him, but also for me", because the weight of losses is really intense and resembles the unbearable thing on the mind while everything is so present and the healing time has not yet caused its effects to appear. Walsh's reflection is common to those who may still feel temporarily petrified by the strength of dictatorships –a perception compatible with the suffering imposed by Latin American dictatorships–, whose military lose respect for the shine of the saber dedicated to the protection of the State and its people. , dedicating himself to using it to fill himself with the benefits of the golden glow even if he paid for it with the blood of his own people.

In his cited "Open letter” addressed to the Military Board Walsh stated tersely: “I cannot, nor want, nor should I renounce a basic feeling: indignation in the face of massacre, cowardice and murder”. He was gunned down. His body was destroyed and disappeared. Walsh chose the same fate as Vicki of whom she said that “she could have chosen other paths that were different without being dishonorable, but what she chose was the fairest, the most generous, the most reasoned. Her lucid death is a synthesis of her short and beautiful life ”. Timeless is the idea that lives need to be worth living and that the non-meaning carries us into turbulent and, not infrequently, impassable seas. walsh and Vicki they chose the only path that those days of death allowed those who preserved the libertarian-popular horizon rather than supporting the sequence of days infested with murderous military and thieves ensconced in power.

The deaths of Walsh and Vicki were lucid yet permeated with tragedy. Under continuous threats, under the present and the horizon full of risks and indisputable constant danger that made life a good to be conquered at all times, both imbued their lives with human meaning. The genocidal persecution of the Argentine military imposed the challenge to each one of preserving his own humanity in the act of resistance to the barbarian, but how to do it if not sharing the limits of the feeling expressed by Walsh about the honorability, justice and generosity of the path chosen by Vicki?

Walsh and Vicki lived through difficult times, but the indignation and vital pulse of both remain as vectors of action and inspirers of libertarian transformation. If tragic and in some cases brief were the lives of so many young Argentines crushed by the regime's assassins, what was left of the lives of the butchers in uniform? In addition to the public shame of their high salaries extracted from the empty plate of entire populations in a state of starvation at bayonet point, the application of a model that reproduces ethical-economic pornography, the conception of an (anti-)sanitary system to cause the death of the greatest number of individuals, then, in addition to this very extensive trail of blood and death that indelibly stains the stars on the uniformed chest, after all, what will they bequeath to posterity if not such an undisputed example of master trickery and criminality tempered by the cowardice of attacking unarmed people?

* Roberto Bueno is a professor of philosophy of law at the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU).


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