Sunday, 28 September 2008

Argentina: Dictatorship documents discovered

The head teacher of the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires (one of the most prestigious secondary schools in Argentina) has discovered files compiled during the military dictatorship. It's a long article so I haven't translated the whole thing, but here are some good chunks of it:

In a dusty, cobweb-filled staircase, in a dark corner of the head teacher's officers of the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, dozens of folders with intelligence documents about students and staff were discovered, gathered by the authorities of the school during the dictatorship. There are blacklists, with details of pupils and their parents, graphs showing the organisation of the UCR* and even a list of wardens and human rights abusers under the amusing title of "National Committee on the Disappearance of Personas". The current headteacher, Virgina González Gass, who found them, plans to create an Archive of Memory with the documents.

The files were piled in several cabinets in the internal staircase of the headteacher's offices in the college - which is four centuries old. The stairs were used by the headteacher to go to what was his private quarters, which was some time ago converted into an IT office. González Gass took the post last May, replacing Horacio Sanguinetti, now director of the Colón [Theatre], appointed by Mauricio Macri. During his long headship at the Buenos Aires [college], Sanguinetti never showed much interest in the documents: they were left to gather dust, although he did allow two pupils to go through them and publish some in a book about the school during the dictatorship**.


How did the documents get there? They are geological layers of papers left behind by the headteachers. Some of them date back to the headship of Raúl Aragón, who took over in 1973 during the government of Héctor Cámpora. At this time, an aggressive group of class representatives formed, who defended Aragón by taking over the college when the Peronist right threatened the university and its associated secondary schools. During this takeover, the militants kept a wake for a student, Eduardo Bekerman, who had been shot by the Triple A. Shortly afterwards, Aragón was removed and succeeded by two other headteachers who clashed with pupils, imposed mass expulsions and were finally forced to resign: Mario Garda and Antonio Muñoz.

The next head arrived in 1975 and continued during the dictatorship: his name was Eduardo Aníbal Rómulo Maniglia, but the staff called him affectionately[!], "the Beast". He deployed a group of wardens who carried out intelligence work inside the college and enforced a discipline similar to that in a prison: they insisted on martial order and silence at all times, and the blue and grey uniforms of the students. The Buenos Aires college has 106 victims of state terrorism, among pupils and ex-pupils.

Maniglia died in 1978 and was replaced by his deputy, Icas Edgardo Micillo, who continued the constant contact with perpetrators of human rights abuses who requested information, until he left the post in 1982 to take up the job of Education Secretary of the City of Buenos Aires. And he abandoned the documents from the college, which stayed there as evidence of the persecution of pupils and staff and of the contact with the perpetrators. "They didn't let Aragón in anymore. Maniglia died, and Micillo, I don't know why he didn't take them," sums up González Gass.


A typed memo describes the "particular aspects to bear in mind in relation to the detection of subversive agents". In it, the military advised that "the authorities of educational establishments are obliged to inform military authorities of the detection of agents or presumed subversive activities originating from those under their orders."

Maniglia and Micillo had no problems complying with this instruction. In another document, the names of perpetrators with whom they communicated regularly are recorded, followed by names of the wardens (most often recorded: Tito Gristelli and Eduardo Kember Urquiza). The document is entitled "National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (educational field) CNdeBA". And it includes "Colonel: Hoffman, Amiano, Genovese, Valladares. Lt. Colonel: Guillermo Brizuela. Officer: Navarro (S.I.F.A.). Doctor: Bianchi".

Juan Carlos Amiano was responsible for the clandestine detention centres of Florencio Varela and Berazategui, while Héctor Hoffman directed the naval base at Mar del Plata. But the most significant is the Coronel Agustín Valladares, who led the "Operation Clarity" designed to search for subversives in eduction. His link with the Heads of the Buenos Aires college was the Secretary of University Coordination, Carlos Bianchi.[...]

La patota del Nacional (Pagina/12)

*I assume this acronym stands for Union Civica Radical, a political party, but I'm not 100% sure.
**The book is La otra Juvenilia, by Santiago Garaño and Werner Pertot.

See also this really nice article about class of '73 from the LA Times in 2003:
Revolution was one of their 3Rs

1 comment:

Mariano T. said...

I belong to class 74, the following one. And some 7% of our classmates disappeared to.