Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Argentina: Memory Disputes

The Argentine press is reporting that politican Elisa Carrió has been expelled from the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos; APDH). The reason? Her opposition to the policy of forcibly acquiring DNA samples from suspected disappeared children. She claims that this is designed to specifically target the owner of Clarin newspaper, Ernestina Herrera de Noble, whose adopted children may be the biological offspring of disappeared parents.

The statement of the APDH is short and to the point. Here it is in full:
Dadas sus declaraciones públicas absolutamente incompatibles con los principios y valores de los derechos humanos, la Mesa Directiva de la Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos ha decidido separar a la Sra. Elisa Carrió de esta institución.
Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, 26 de octubre de 2009.
Mesa Directiva

In the light of her public declarations, which are absolutely incompatible with the principles and values of human rights, the Board of Directors of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights has decided to expel Elisa Carrió from the institution.
Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, 26 October 2009.
Board of Directors [translation mine]
It's an unusual move - the only other person to have been thrown out in this manner was Carlos Menem (for introducing the amnesty laws!). Carrió is defiant.

The issue of the DNA sampling is obviously a controversial one. On a broader level, though, I'm interested in the divisions which can occur between activists who should be on the 'same side'. Emotions run deep on all these issues and despite an awareness that in-fighting only harms their ultimate cause, different groups often find themselves unable to avoid treading very different paths.

One clear example is that of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Madres de Plaza de Mayo). The original mothers' group split in the mid-1980s, torn apart by differences of opinion on the direction of their struggle. Very briefly, the more militant mothers led by Hebe de Bonafini wanted to continue to insist on Aparicion con Vida (Reappearance with life) and also to broaden their fight so that they did not concentrate on their actual biological children, but on all the disappeared, and on wider issues of social justice as well. The other group, who developed into the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo - Founding Line (Linea Fundadora), were slightly more conciliatory in that they were prepared to work with a democratic government, and they also continue to use the names of their own children on their white headscarves. In addition, it has been suggested that class differences played a role in the disagreement, with the more middle class of the mothers tending towards Linea Fundadora (see Guzman Bouvard, Revolutionizing Motherhood).

Do personal and political differences merely create a fragmentary situation which opponents of a memory culture can take advantage of, or can a variety of viewpoints enrich the memory landscape? As usual, the answer is probably a bit of both, but in Argentina, such debates are played out on the public stage and become part of the history of redemocratisation.

Carrio celebro su expulsion de las filas de la APDH (Critica Digital)
Tarjeta roja para Carrio (Pagina/12)

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