The 1980 Nobel Peace Prize laureate has urged President Barack Obama to reschedule his planned visit to Argentina, saying the date marks the anniversary of a U.S. backed coup that ushered in an era of "persecution, torture, death, and disappearances."
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, born in Buenos Aires in 1931, won the prize for years of human rights activism in the face of state repression.
The problem isn't the visit in and of itself, Esquivel told the Associated Press, but rather the date of Obama's visit.
On March 24, 1976, a military coup, with U.S. backing, ousted President Isabel Peron. From then until 1983, the regime's Dirty War left some 30,000 people suspected as being leftists "disappeared." The day is now celebrated in the country as a national Day of Memory for Truth and Justice.
"I'm a survivor of that era, of the flights of death, of the torture, of the prisons, of the exiles," Esquivel told AP. "And when you analyze the situation in depth, the United States was responsible for the coups in Latin America."
As Kevin Young previously wrote at NACLA:
Argentina’s military regime murdered, tortured, and raped tens of thousands of people, mainly leftists, who criticized government policy. During the height of the repression, the U.S. government gave the junta over $35 million in military aid and sold it another $43 million in military supplies. It was well aware of the state terror it was supporting. Three months after the 1976 coup, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger privately told Argentine Foreign Minister César Guzzetti that, “we have followed events in Argentina closely” and “wish the new government well. We wish it will succeed . . . If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”
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Esquivel outlined his concerns in a letter to Obama, which was sent to media Thursday. Esquivel writes:
In 1976, when you were just 14 years old and your country was celebrating two centuries of independence, we began the most tragic period in our history, with the establishment of state terrorism that subjected our people to persecution, torture, death, and disappearances to rob them of their freedom, independence, and sovereignty.
Esquivel's call echoes that of Argentine human rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Obama's visit March 24 would "only bring back the most haunting memories," said Nora Cortiñas, a founding member of the group, last month.
"It would be an affront to the people who have worked against impunity," she told Argentine state news agency Télam.
"It is known that the U.S. had and always has participation in the Southern Cone and in other countries with the the most sinister dictatorships we suffered in the 1970s, organizing, financing, and supporting the military coups," she added.
Esquivel's letter adds that if Obama acknowledged such actions by the U.S., and submitted itself to the International Criminal Court, his visit would be welcome.