March into memory
On 24 March (the Día de la Memoria or Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice) a crowd of more than 50,000 demonstrators gathered in the main square of Buenos Aires, known as Plaza de Mayo. This national holiday marks the anniversary of the coup détat that brought the military junta to power in 1976, and was responsible for the disappearance of 30,000 individuals during its seven years in power. This year, the historic square was divided by three separate protest marches led by various social, political and human rights organizations.
Estela de Carlotto, the president of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo a human rights organization which aims to find children kidnapped during the dictatorship gave a speech on the main stage in which she stated: For 34 years, the struggle has remained the same. The people organized, committed and united, fighting against the economic powers using any means to enrich themselves with what is not theirs. Carlotto referred to the accomplices of hunger today as the same as 30 years ago, going on to list a number of prominent companies and influential people including The Macris, Herrera de Noble, Perez Companc, the Fortabats, the Sociedad Rural Argentina, Mercedes Benz, Ford, Techint, Acindar and many others.
In her speech, Estela de Carlotto also highlighted the achievements of social movements so far: We know that there are 101 children of the disappeared who have regained their freedom, about 400 criminals who are being tried across the country, and over 60 who have already been convicted of genocide.
A group of organizations and individuals including Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Founding Line and relatives of the disappeared, began their protest around 3.30pm. The march, led by Nora Cortinas and Marta Vázquez, both long-term human rights activists, carried a 600-metre banner with photos of many of the individuals who disappeared during the military dictatorship. Nora Cortinas criticized the Mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, and the police for their violence against the crowds, stating that police and their batons are the same under Macri as they were during the dictatorship. Seconds later, the crowd started to chant with Nora Cortinas against the mayor, who had attended the event.
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, led by Hebe de Bonafini, one of the founders of the organization, marched from the National Congress to the main Government building to attend a music festival organized by the General Secretariat of the Presidency. In her speech De Bonafini said that mothers are proud of living in this country watered by the blood of patriots, adding that we are fortunate to have a Government that is able to convict murderers. She continued by thanking Cristina [Fernández de Kirchner] and Nestor [Kirchner] in a show of appreciation towards the current and former presidents, adding that we never would have thought that murderers would be imprisoned, others convicted, and thousands more put on trial. She noted that Argentina is the only Latin American country to condemn the genocide and send them to prison and said that the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo were proud to live in this country.
After the effusive speech by De Bonafini, the majority of the protesters began to scatter, while others stayed to witness musical performances on a day filled with memories, nostalgia and a tireless commitment to sustain the fight. At the other end of the protest, groups gathered under the theme Memory, Truth and Justice. Among the participants were the Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and political figures such as Vilma Ripoll, Marcelo Parrilli, Patricia Walsh and Critstian Castillo.