Argentina: The Vicious Legacy of Left-Wing Terrorism

43 years ago today, the Montoneros terrorist group planted a bomb at Buenos Aires police headquarters, that left 23 dead and 66 wounded.

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Author Victoria Villarruel is an expert on Argentine terrorism (PanAm Post).

Every July 2, the bloodiest attack of the 1970s is quietly commemorated in Argentina. While the political left clamors for “memory, truth and justice” for the repression exercised by state forces against irregular armies, there is no memory, truth or justice for the victims of the violence that plunged Argentina into a situation similar to Vietnam: a guerrilla war.

On that date, a terrorist from the Montoneros group, part of the left wing of Peronism, placed an explosive device in the Federal Security Superintendence of the Federal Police, in the city of Buenos Aires.

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While a hundred policemen were having lunch, the roof collapsed and 23 were killed, as well as a civilian who was visiting, and 60 officers were injured.

This was part of a series of acts by the armed organization that sought to establish “national socialism” in Argentina: a consequence of their training in Cuba and as the embodiment of what they called the evolution of Peronism, which in turn they were purging – by means of attacks on elements which were not aligned with their worldview.

To understand what happened, the PanAm Post contacted Victoria Villarruel, co-author of “Los llamaban jóvenes idealistas”  and “Los otros muertos” (“The So-called Young Idealists” and “The Other Dead”), which compile the circumstances of the more than 17,000 victims of such terrorism.

Why should dates such as this be commemorated in the context of “memory, truth and justice”?

Democracy and the rule of law are nurtured by the adequate knowledge of the past and the repudiation of aberrant crimes committed against the civilian population. For that reason, remembering the historical events, even though they are painful as in this case, allows us to learn from them, teach new generations that ideas are not defended through terrorism, and it helps victims not to die twice before being forgotten and facing indifference.

What does the violence of this attack tell us about the nature of these armed groups from the 1970s?

The armed groups that acted in Argentina in the 70s, were real irregular armies, with their own uniforms, codes of revolutionary justice, military degrees, manufacture of their own weapons (such as the Montoneros); they financed operations through their own taxation systems, blackmail, extortion, and kidnappings for ransom.

Both the Montoneros and the ERP (Revolutionary People’s Army) were not groups of young people who threw Molotov cocktails, but irregular armies with military and psychological training both within the country and abroad in Cuba, Palestine, Russia, etc. This, in addition to a profound and messianic conviction of the terrorist mission that they carried out made them commit attacks as brazen as the one we remember today, which left 24 dead and 66 wounded.

Why is it important that this generation and those that follow be aware of what happened?

It is essential for young people to know the historical truth, because otherwise they will not understand why we continue to pay millions in compensation and subsidies, why people enter government whose only distinguishing feature is to be the son of a disappeared person or family member of a terrorist, they will not understand why a number of policies in education, justice, security, human rights, etc. are totally influenced by the distorted vision of what happened in the 1970s. Knowing the truth, free from biases, is liberating

Was this a local event or was it part of an international project involving the intervention of other countries, which could qualify as a war?

Almost all of Latin America found itself immersed in the spiral of violence that began after the Cuban Revolution. After the Second World War, during the Cold War, the battle between the US and the USSR was fought in the non-aligned countries, in regions such as Latin America and parts of Asia and Africa.

In our continent, Cuba was the nation which represented the ideas of communism and the Communist epidemic was infecting most of our countries. Argentina unfortunately could not avoid it and since the late 1950s suffered various events that were the prelude to what would explode with terrible violence in the 1970s.

What message would you give to Argentines and Hispanic Americans who do not know about armed leftist terrorists?

My message is always to get involved in the knowledge of our history. Only then we will not be deceived by those who, like the siren song, lie about what they have lived through simply because it has been a long time. We suffer from the consequences of terrorist impunity.

The lack of justice in Argentina has generated more crime, a level of scandalous corruption, and the embezzlement of state funds, to grant compensation and perks to terrorists who do not deserve them.

The only way to overcome this past is by judging the terrorists, sending a clear message that the offender must answer for their actions. Not having done so with terrorism bequeaths this chaos to the next generation, and it is time to end this policy, as we move towards another more just and inclusive Argentina.

*This article was prepared in collaboration with Marcelo Duclos.

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