Sunday, 31 August 2014

Update on Chilean archives piece

I recently wrote a piece for NACLA on Londres 38 and the "No más archivos secretos" campaign. Well, there has been a development since I wrote that: the Colonia Dignidad files handed to memory organisations by Chilevisión may now be viewed online (in PDF form). There are thousands of pages here and huge PDFs may not be not the easiest way of accessing them, but the documents have only been out in the open for a very short time and it was apparently a priority to get them on the web asap. It's really amazing to see that an archive which was completely hidden at the beginning of the year can now be read by anyone with an internet connection and Adobe reader.

Argentina: The Madre with the camera

Infojus Noticias has a great piece on Adelina Dematti, a member of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who photographed the group's struggle using a Kodak hidden under her clothes. She said she did it so that her disappeared son Carlos "would know he was not alone, that we were looking for him". She never found out what happened to him.

Her act of recording meetings and demonstrations was extremely dangerous under the dictatorship and provides us with a record of the Madres movement from an insider's perspective. The Madres are now active on social media and I think we can be sure if those options had been available to them in the 1970s and 80s, they would have used them, but as it is, Dematti's photos are unusual.

She photographed the Mothers' gatherings, the participation in the large Marches of Resistence, meetings with Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, writer Julio Cortázar and, later, president Néstor Kirchner. I particularly like the picture of the 1983 Marcha de la resistencia showing the silhouette cutouts of the disappeared - the "silouetazo".

See more here:
Las fotos de Adelina, la Madre que documentó la búsqueda de su hijo (Infojus Noticias)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Chile: Lifting the Sentence of Secrecy

I've been doing a little writing elsewhere and have a piece up at Nacla on Chile's secret archives and recent moves to open them up. Read the full thing here.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Argentina: Appeals for those with doubts about their identities to come forward

Infojus Noticias has done a nice piece featuring several of the TV ads the Abuelas have used over the years to encourage people who think they might be children of the disappeared to come forward. This is my favourite:

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Peru: Tempestad en los Andes

A documentary was presented at the Lima film festival this week called Tempestad en los Andes, directed by Mikael Winström. It focuses on Josefin Ekermann, the niece of the first wife of Abimael Guzmán, Augusta La Torre, as she travels to Peru from Sweden to find out "the truth" about her family's links to Sendero Luminoso (see trailer below, in Spanish - although the film is apparently in Quechua and English with Spanish subtitles). It also tells the story of Flor Gonzales, whose brother died in the prison of El Frontón.

I knew that Guzmán was married before Elena Iparraguirre but I knew almost nothing about his first wife and her role in the foundation of Shining Path, so this sounds really interesting.

La sobrina política de Abimael Guzmán es la estrella de este documental sueco sobre Sendero Luminoso (
Los estigmas de la guerra unen y separan a estas mujeres (La Republica)

Chile: Priest involved in irregular adoptions

While Argentina is well known for the stolen babies during its dictatorship, there have been allegations of irregular adoptions in other countries, such as Spain and now Chile.

The Catholic Church in Chile has confirmed that priest Gerardo Joannon was involved in the adoption of two babies without the knowledge of their mothers in the 1970s or 1980s, and also that he had an "inappropriate relationship" with one of the women. He apparently even conducted masses for "dead" babies whom he in fact knew to be alive.

The pattern seems to be that single pregnant women were pressured to give up their children for adoption, and if they refused, they were told that they had died during childbirth and the children were given up anyway.

The Church wanted Joannon to go to Spain on retreat but Chile has now said he cannot leave the country while police investigations are ongoing (good!).

The situation in Argentina was even more brutal and also less ambiguously linked to the military junta. There, "subversive" prisoners who were found to be pregnant were deliberately kept alive in detention centres until they gave birth and then murdered, while their babies were sold or given away, usually to families regarded as "good" or with military connections.

In Chile, it remains to be seen whether the practice of taking babies from women deemed "inappropriate" mothers was widespread; I think this certainly can't be ruled out. I'm sure it would be more convenient for the Church and the State if Joannon turned out to have been acting more or less alone, but this may not be the full story. Even without an organised "baby-stealing" plan, it is also possible that the atmosphere in Chile at the time - conservative, authoritarian - made it extremely difficult for vulnerable people to question or stand up to representatives of the Church, who judged that they had the intervene in the children's future.

Investigación por adopciones irregulares confirma participación de Gerardo Joannon en dos casos (La Tercera)
Chile's Catholic Church Says Priest Stole Babies for Adoption (Newsweek)
Chilean priest probed after 'stolen babies' scandal (BBC)

Argentina: 20 years since the AMIA attack

I missed the actual anniversary, which was 20 July, but just wanted to share this Youtube video from Memoria Activa on 20 years of impunity for the terrorist attack on the AMIA in Buenos Aires (Spanish only).