Saturday, 20 February 2010

Argentina: Focus on Domingo Antonio Bussi

(Image credit En Tucuman)

This elderly man with the oxygen tube in his nose is one of the accused in a human rights trial which started in Argentina this week. He is Antonio Domingo Bussi (1926-), a prominent figure in the nation's military past.

In 1975, General Bussi headed the military offensive to combat leftist insurgency in the province of Tucuman. This was, in fact, the true start of the so-called "dirty war", even though it predated the March 1976 coup. Torture and disappearances were prevalent in Tucuman even while Isabel Peron was still President of Argentina. Following her forced removal by the military, Bussi became Governor of Tucuman and a byword for cruelty, even by Argentine dictatorship standards.
The Spanish request for extradition contends that he insisted on supervising many executions himself, personally shooting prisoners in the back of the neck so as to encourage his subalterns not to falter.

Former policemen testified that he began one killing session by executing a 16-year-old honor student, Ana María Corral, who had been abducted from her school. ''Prisoners were bound with cable and made to kneel at the edge of a previously excavated pit that they were forced to look into before being blindfolded and shot,'' the indictment reads.

(Argentina Revisits 'Dirty War' - Will General be Tried? NY Times)

After the return to democracy in 1983, Bussi faced trial on charges of unlawful imprisonment, torture, murder, and falsifying documents, but was saved from jail by the Full Stop amnesty law.

And up to this point, his story is similar to those of many high-ranking military officers. But now here's the interesting twist: in 1995, Bussi was elected governor of Tucuman. That's right; the population of the province that he had terrorised and where he was suspected of responsibility of 500 people, at a conservative estimate, now freely invited him back. As often happens under such circumstances, some prefer to remember the supposed benefits of a strongman in power:

''Tucumán was a garden, absolutely clean and safe, when Bussi was in charge,'' said Armando Villagra, a retiree whose nephew was abducted and killed during the dictatorship. ''Besides, what was Bussi supposed to do, let this place become another Cuba? There is no point in hashing this over again now.''

In 2003, Bussi was elected mayor of Tucuman. But by this time, the Kirchner government had declared the amnesty laws unconstitutional and things weren't looking so rosy for human rights abusers.

He may be physically frail, but Bussi has not softened in his old age.

Bussi said that the armed forces carried out, during the 70s, a true "epic" against the "Marxist- Leninist aggression”, that the country was immersed in at the time.

The former Commander of the 5th Army Brigade chose to make a statement because he said he wanted to "contribute to the historical truth, nowadays distorted, managed and abused to satisfy selfish interests which are not faithful to the reality lived in Tucumán and in Argentina in the 70s".

(Bussi tries to justify repression during military dictatorship - Telam)

"Las FF.AA. hicieron una verdadera epopeya" (La Nacion)

See also previous posts

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