On Saturday March 16th, a weekly newspaper from Spain, Cambio16, published an interview with jailed former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla. Videla is serving two life sentences, another 50-year sentence, and continues to stand trial, for crimes against humanity, kidnapping, torture, and the unlawful appropriation of babies (that were taken from female prisoners who gave birth in captivity before they were murdered). These were crimes that he and fellow junta leaders committed following the 1976 coup d’état that they directed and that was responsible for the kidnapping, torture and deaths of an estimated 30,000 Argentines.
When his interviewer, Ricardo Angoso, whom Página/12 points out is a stated opponent of the Kirchner government and far-right journalist, asked him what he would say to his “comrades” also serving time in prison for similar convictions, he stated:
I want to remind each one of them, especially the younger ones, who today on average fall between the ages of 58-68, and are still physically capable of combat, that in the case that this unjust imprisonment and slandering of the republic’s basic values continues, you reserve the duty of arming yourselves again in defense of the republic’s basic institutions, which are today being trampled upon by the Kirchner regime, led by president Cristina and her henchmen.*
According to Página/12, Videla also accuses the current government of wanting to turn towards a “failed communism of the Cuban sort.” He then declares that “it will again be the security and armed forces who, along with the people –from which they [the security and armed forces] originate- will impede it”.
As most people who pay attention to international economics can easily tell, the Kirchners’ economic and social policies fall far from this characterization of “failed communism,” and are in actuality those of a democratic western-style capitalist economy with some elements of a social-democratic state.
But that did not stop Videla from calling the armed forces to combat: he issued a plea for the “citizenry to reject the dictators of Kirchnerism and its henchmen” and to make the “sole totalitarianism that currently governs… bite the dust forever” in Argentina. Finally, he called out the current opposition, accusing them of having “succumbed to fear and the bribes that the government imposes in all areas”.
Videla’s comments come at a time when Argentina and its government are being praised internationally for human rights trials that have convicted and brought to justice scores of perpetrators of human rights abuses during the dictatorship. Most recently, the trial against perpetrators of “Plan Condor” –a coordinated effort by the militaries of several South American countries to wipe out all opposition to their dictatorships- is under way as Argentina’s largest human rights trial yet.
Major news outlets from all ends of the political spectrum in Argentina covered Videla’s interview, with headlines such as “A golpista provocation by Videla from Prison” in the conservative and opposition newspaper El Clarín, and “Videla Called for an Armed Uprising by the Armed Forces” in the anti-government La Nación.
Former dictator Videla has also been in the news lately as the election of the new pope, from Argentina, has revived debate over accusations against Pope Francis and his ties to the dictatorship, and the well-established complicity of much of the Argentine Catholic Church in the regime’s repression.
*All translations were made by the author of this post.