Sunday, 4 April 2010

Argentina: Ex-detention Centres Under Threat

Los ex centros clandestinos estan en riesgo (Critica) - trans mine
The Former Clandestine Centres are at Risk
They are buildings where torture took place during the dictatorship. The Buenos Aires government is supposed to maintain them, but it is not using its budget

Seven of the clandestine detention centres (CCD) which functioned in Buenos Aires city are spaces of memory today. In the majority of these, time and lack of maintenance is wearing away their structure on a daily basis and with it, their legal and historical value. In 2009, the Buenos Aires administration used just 6% of the budget intended for the conservation of the sites where thousands of people were tortured and disappeared. To guarantee their preservation, a bill is proposing to declare the structural conditions an emergency. "The maintenance work for the detention centres is really behind schedule, often because the necessary funds aren't available and in other cases because the local executive branch is using the budget earmarked for this end for other purposes," according to Social Equality deputy, Martín Hourest, who also warned that the Buenos Aires government may not avail themselves of these funds without prior authorisation from the legislature.

The Instituto Espacio para la Memoria (Memory Space Institute, IEM) is a decentralised organisation which is tasked with "ensuring the preservation, protection and valuing of the various sites where CCD functioned", such as Olimpo, Atlético, Automotores Orletti, ESMA y Virrey Cevallos. However, this often does not happen and the deterioration continues.

Hourest's proposal intends to provide the IEM with the necessary resources to attain the objective which is not expressed in concrete works, generally because the city authorities have not transferred to it the funds already approved by law. In some cases, also, a lack of staff has caused delays to the tendering process.

One of the most urgent cases for conservation is the site on which El Atlético was situated, at the intersection of Paseo Colón and Cochabamba. The demolition of the building to construct the motorway 25 de Mayo, which occurred during the dictatorship, meant that only the basements where the detained-disappeared prisoners were held could be saved. This space is open to the elements. Exactly two years ago, the space in front of it was inaugurated as a Memory Square, which remains closed until today due to lack of funds. It is essential that restauration takes place to save the remains which are already 33 years old. In the past year, inscriptions made by disappeared persons have been found on the walls of the Capuchita (Little Hood) in the ESMA. Even more than artefacts for memory, such marks and any object which can be identified in the detention centres becomes evidence in the trials of the murderers.

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