Saturday, March 12, 2011

(Delayed) Justice for Kidnappings in Argentina and Spain

In other legal news, after many years, Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone (already in prison for life) and six other officials in the Argentine military junta have come to trial for the kidnapping of hundreds of babies from people who were persecuted – jailed, tortured, murdered – by the regime during Argentina’s “Dirty War.”
While the children were adopted by families friendly to the military leadership, their parents were rarely heard from again.

Female political prisoners were kept alive during their pregnancies, only to be summarily killed after giving birth, often dropped alive and naked into the sea from military aircraft.
The trial will involve hundreds of witnesses and last several months.

In Spain, meanwhile, the pressure continues to build for a full national investigation of the baby-stealing ring that began after the Civil War, when children of opponents of the dictatorship were kidnapped and adopted. (This was the subject of the book/film The Lost Children of Franco several years ago.)
Military psychologist Antonio Vallejo-Nagera built the ideological framework for the practice of taking children from their parents. He saw Marxism as a form of mental illness that was polluting the Hispanic race and advocated that children of leftists be removed and re-educated, a process he termed "separating the wheat from the chaff."

An unknown number of infants were taken from women's prisons. In addition, some Republican child evacuees were repatriated without their parents' consent and interned in Social Aid homes for schooling in religious and nationalist ideology. Many were adopted by right-wing families.
In the Spanish case, the involvement of priests and nuns seems clear; I don’t know if this was also the case in Argentina, though there is of course evidence of Church complicity more generally.*

Speaking of justice and the recovery of historical memory, I’m looking forward to seeing Patricio Guzmán’s new film, Nostalgia for the Light:

It’s showing in New York for the next couple of weeks, and he’s making appearances there. (He’s made some pro-Church films in the past, but the ones I’ve seen haven’t been. Hope this one isn’t all goddy.) ...By the way, why are these documentaries so expensive? Why don’t they put them on iTunes and elsewhere online and go for quantity? That way they could get their message out to more people far more quickly….

*Note - of Christian von Wernich:
On 9 October 2007 the court found him guilty of complicity in seven homicides, 42 kidnappings, and 32 instances of torture, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

As of 1 February 2010 von Wernich has not been penalised by the Catholic Church and is permitted to officiate as priest at Mass in prison. On his conviction his superior, bishop Martín Elizalde, apologised for von Wernich being "so far from the requirements of the mission commended to him" and said "at the appropriate time von Wernich's situation will have to be resolved in accordance with canonical law", but never again referred to the issue in public.
Well, knock me over with a rusty thurible. I’m shocked.

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