Sunday, 7 September 2008

Argentina: Death of Alleged Collaborator

An ex-disappeared person accused of collaborating with the military regime has killed himself before he could be arrested, according to Pagina/12. Their story, aptly headlined "a tragedy within the tragedy", details the life of Jose Baravalle, known as "El Pollo" (the chicken). He was abducted in 1976 and endured five days of torture before allegedly "breaking" and collaborating with the chief of police in Rosario. He is accused of then subsequently even participating in torture sessions himself.

After being located by Interpol in Italy, he threw himself off a bridge before he could be taken into custody.

Some of his former comrades condemned him; others saw him as a victim as well.

From the descriptions of torture which I have read - which included the technique known as "waterboarding", beatings, sensory deprivation, sexual assaults, and perhaps most horrifically electric torture with a cattle prod - I have no idea how many people could withstand this for any length of time. Naturally some people would have said or done anything to make the pain stop; this is, after all, the "point" of torture. I don't know how we can judge a person in such a position; even those who experienced it themselves cannot know how another person would react the same situation. There are no winners in this story.

Baravalle left a brief note which I will translate below:

I don't know what they think I know. This story will never end. I'm really sorry, but I think this is the only way to end it (...). It's terrible to go from being a victim to a villain. Some will celebrate: the true villains. I hope I'm the last victim of this barbarity(...).

My only crime is that I couldn't resist the torture. What is the human breaking point? I apologise to all my family and friends. I've already been through that and I was forgiven. I'm not going to go over it again. I'm going because this has to end. Goodbye.

Historia de una tragedia dentro de la tragedia (Pagina/12)

La carta que dejo El Pollo

Updated: here is a link to the blog of Baravalle's son. I am very touched by this story and have every sympathy for the Baravalle family.


Andres Baravalle said...

Hi Lily,
I'm the older of Jose's sons - Andres.

First of all, thanks for your kind words.

Secondly, I'd like to share a couple of words with you and your readers.

My father has already been under process for "torture", in Argentina, and absolved. The "witnesses" that were accusing him before the process, changed in all or in part their accusations during the process. We still have a typewritten copy of the depositions of the witnesses and of his lawyer, Absalon Casas. Shouldn't this be the first document that so-called journalists or activists should read before accusing my father?

In the Baravalle family there are at the very least 3 generations of left wing militancy, which is clearly under the eyes of anyone that knows us. My father's father was a left wing democratic (in the latin american meaning - not in the u.s.) - himself jailed once.

My father has always been left wing, and as everyone that knows him will say, there are no doubts about that. He had the most horrid hate for any dictatorship.

I have been a left wing activist for all my adult life - as others in my family now and before me.

Calling my father a collaborator, while he was a victim, is just a lie.

It's known that my father, after days of torture (it's not clear how many - the source discord and he's not here to answer, but we are talking of 5 to 15 days), "broke", and gave information to the police.

What's the limit of human resistance? I would like to see the persons that are trying to throw mud on my father's memory in his very same situation. Then I will gladly discuss about what you should or should not do under torture.

Lillie Langtry said...

Thank you Andres, I'm honoured that you took the time to comment here, and I'm very sorry for your loss.

I admit that I had not heard of your father until yesterday, but I have done a great deal of reading on the Argentine dictatorship, including so-called "collaborators". I personally have no interest in making allegations about any victim of torture especially considering I have not, thankfully, experienced a similar situation myself.

I know that sometimes, however, former disappeared persons and others do disagree on past events/"collaboration"/who deserves to be labelled a victim, etc. My personal opinion is that these divisions only serve those who continue to oppose democracy and obscure the real perpetrators (as your father indeed wrote).

One of my basic ideas in this blog is that the past hasn't gone away, when thinking about these events, and I think this proves the point. I've very aware that I'm writing about "real people" with families who can read my words - as you have proven - and will give this some more thought.

Thanks again, Lily.