Thursday, 22 October 2009

Argentina: Murderers and Thieves

Of all the crimes of the Argentine dictatorship, robbery is one that is often overlooked. It's hardly surprising - next to the abduction, torture and murder of tens of thousands of people, the disposal of their bodies in the sea and the illegal adoption of their children, who cares about possessions, right? Fair enough. But we can also note that fact that while the military stormed into people's homes to drag them away to clandestine detention centres, never to be seen again, they were also involved in the systematic theft of those people's private property.

Lila Pastoriza, a survivor of the ESMA, described this as follows:
Can you imagine a warehouse with high, very high ceilings, in whose gritty shadows floated mountains of furniture, appliances, clothes, shoes, all the objects that people use? That was what the sailors of the Navy School of Mechanics (the "Escuela Mecanica de la Armada" or the "ESMA") called "the storeroom", the place where they stole the goods that had been seized from their prisoners.
The looting of the kidnapped persons' homes - etched into collective memory by the images of military trucks packed to the bursting point - was an ever-present element of those incursions. It was the appropriation of "war booty," the stripping bare of the defeated. The plundering began right at the start, with members of the task force group distributing valuable goods like cash and jewels amongst themselves, and not always registering what they'd "skimmed off the top". The rest was transported to the storage spaces in the clandestine centers where they sorted out the booty.
[cited in Brodsky 2001, Nexo, pp. 42-42)

One of the things about this crime, like sexual violence against prisoners, is that it's so obviously criminal and self-serving that it's hard for even the most extreme supporters of the military to argue that this was part of some kind of acceptable security plan.

Now, two of those involved with the dictatorship, Jorge "El Tigre" Acosta and Jorge Radice, will face charges for their part in the stealing of victims' belongings, separately from the ESMA "megatrial".

Cortiñas: "El robo de bienes era un plan sistematico" (Critica Digital)

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