On March 24th, 1976, a military coup successfully overthrew and replaced the civilian government of Argentina, marking the beginning of a seven-year military regime. Today, like every March 24th since the return of the civilian government, a march through La Plaza de Mayo commemorated the anniversary (this being the 40th) of a regime filled with violence and repression. The story told here by the streets reminds us of the systematic kidnapping, torturing, and assassination of any and all political opponents of the regime, with an estimated total of 30,000 people “disappeared” by the regime.
Remembering this not-so-secretive violence raises many important questions about the conditions under which the military was able to take power. At the time of the coup, a similar concern for violent oppression that united us today at the march inspired the military take-over in 1976. High levels of internal violence led by the far-left was directed towards certain political figures, business leaders, and, if they got in the way, civilians via kidnapping for ransom, assassinations, riots, and destruction of property. In this light, the military justified its culture of fear as the only way to eradicate the chaos and restore the country to peace. While today we especially remember the undeniably excessive violence used to squash all opposition (whether violent or peaceful, regardless of age, and often enough without direct connection to the opposing parties), we must not forget either how it came to be. On March 24th, 2016, we remember not just the 40th anniversary of violence and oppression, but centuries of it, and now loudly as one voice, we declare ¡Nunca más! to dictatorship,
to governments built on fear,
to the inhibition of democracy,
and to turning a blind eye to violations of human rights.