Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Argentina: Ulises Gorini on the Madres

"The Madres de Plaza de Mayo movement marks a before and after in Argentina history, in many respects. In this sense, you could say that its role is underestimated in our history. Perhaps the fact that it is a political movement which is still active, and that the history is too recent, leads certain political factions to obscure or underestimate the role played by the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in the last thirty-odd years."
This comment [trans. mine] is from Ulises Gorini, who has just published a second volume of his research into the Argentine Mothers. This book, La otra lucha (The Other Struggle) will continue the story from the transition to democracy in 1983 to 1986, when the Madres split into the two organisations which exist today.

Here's an extract from an interview with Gorini published in Pagina/12 and translated by me:

- What impression did the Madres have of the new era which began with the return to democracy, understood as the postdictatorial period?
- The Madres remain on alert, because when Alfonsín takes over he isn't a new character for them. They know him well. They also know his policies quite well. As well as the national government, they also know many members of parliament. And they also know that the judiciary will continue to be made up of an enormous majority (over ninety percent) of the same people were in office during the dictatorship. It was practically an unchanged judiciary, with some exceptions which Alfonsín introduces in the Federal Court in the capital city, which is going to be responsible for the famous Trial of the Junta. Therefore, they are on alert because they notice that there are a lot of people, too many, who they know how they acted under dictatorship and fear that ties and complicity remain. And so they remain in a state of alert. And what does this mean? Well, this is what they say during the last march under the dictatorship. They announce that the next week when they meet in the Plaza again, with Alfonsín in the Casa Rosada, "another struggle" will begin.

- Did Alfonsín's government see it as a contradiction that, under democracy, there was a resistance movement that was looking for "the impossible"?
- In the first place, Alfonsín's government - including before it even was the government - begins to put pressure on the Madres movement, with the idea that when the new constitutional authorities assume their offices, the Madres must change its role, its behaviour in politics. That, from when the new authorities take power, the Parliament, judiciary, and national government are those charged with managing the problems and legacy of State terrorism in Argentina. And, in any case, the Madres may play an accompanying role to these institutions, supporting the actions of these institutions.

- And how do the Madres react?
- The Madres aren't going to agree with this, on principle, because this pressure begins before the assumption of power and the Madres are not at all sure how Alfonsín is going to act. They aren't sure if they are going to agree with his policies or not. And in fact, the differences do show themselves very soon. Therefore, they plan for the resistance to continue. [...]

- What was the debate that occurred around the term "Aparición con vida" [literally "appearance with life", one of the Madres' main slogans]
"Aparición con vida" is born in the middle of the dictatorship. And it is born as a literal demand. That is to say, in the face of the all the dictatorship's announcements that all the disappeared were dead (sometimes, these were informal announcements, leaks, and at other times more formal attempts to establish the death of the disappeared), the women coin this phrase. But at the same time its meaning changes over time. When Alfonsín takes power, the Madres are aware that the majority of the disappeared have been murdered. But they were not trying to claim something absurd, impossible. Rather, this slogan stated the necessity of reconstructing everything that had happened and not simply using the word "dead" as the only word which is used for a situation which is much more complex, in which there had been abductions, tortures, oppression, hiding of bodies, and above all, people who had committed these crimes. Therefore, “Aparición con vida” raises the possibility, at this early moment, that the Conadep commission will end up by saying simply "they are dead" and will not take account of a much more complex reality.

"Se sigue subestimando el rol cumplido por las Madres" (Pagina/12)

Seriously, ladies and gentlemen, I've been messing with this translation all week and it's still rough around the edges and incomplete, but I think if I don't post it now the moment really will have passed. So here you go, and if you speak Spanish why don't you follow the link and read the bits I didn't get to translating...

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