The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Torturers Can Sleep Well

Sep 10, 2001

In Mid-August, the Argentinean justice system released former Captain Astiz, who was one of the people directly responsible for the tortures which took place under the military dictatorship which lasted from 1976 to 1983. According to international human rights organizations, over 30,000 people simply "disappeared" during these years. Most were militants of left wing and extreme left wing organizations. One of the methods used by the military was to torture prisoners until they talked, and then to either kill or drug them as they were flown out in airplanes over the ocean, where they were tossed out in order to get rid of the bodies.

After the return of "democracy" in 1984, there were a number of attempts to go after the military people, at least those in the secondary ranks. But this did not lead to the arrest of those who carried out the tortures, nor of those who ordered them. To the contrary, there were a number of amnesty laws voted which excused the military, saying they were just following orders. One law stated there was a "final limit" imposed, so that it was no longer legal even to pursue anyone for crimes committed under the military dictatorship. Not a single government which has held office in Argentina since 1984 has overturned this law which allows assassins to remain free.

Among these assassins, Astiz, who was nicknamed "the blond angel of death," never tried to hide his role in the crimes he committed. His own bragging eventually did lead to him spending three months in prison (followed by parole–of course!) In an interview he openly admitted that he had been, "trained to kill political people and journalists." His conviction was because he didn’t "apologize for his crimes"; it was not for the crimes themselves which had been covered by the amnesty law.

If Astiz was put into preventative detention on July 1, it was because of a request by an Italian judge to extradite him, because of crimes he had committed against Italian citizens. But the same Argentinian judges who detained him have now refused the judge’s extradition request and released him.

The Argentinean state–its judges, its military and the politicians of the bourgeoisie–are all in agreement to protect these torturers from the past, because they may be able to use them again in the future–just as the U.S. recycled those responsible for torture in Viet Nam and used them again in Latin America or in other places around the world.

The military, whether in Argentina or elsewhere, obviously has very little to fear from the state apparatus of which it is the spinal column. Workers, like those in Argentina who directly suffered under the dictatorship and whose families were persecuted, have every interest themselves to judge and to condemn these assassins in uniform. But to do that, the workers can only count on their own mobilization, expecting nothing from the judges and politicians of the bourgeois state.