BUENOS AIRES – The Argentine government said on Monday that criticism of the vigorous human rights policy launched in 2003 by late President Nestor Kirchner and continued by incumbent Cristina Fernandez is part of a bid to shield agents of the 1976-1983 military regime from prosecution.
“To discredit the human rights policy ... is a step toward fostering impunity,” Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said during his daily press conference.
The insistence on justice for victims of the junta, which killed an estimated 30,000 people and brutalized tens of thousands of others, has been a pillar of the governing Front for Victory coalition’s program since 2003, when Kirchner overturned amnesty laws protecting leaders and agents of the military regime.
Fernandez, Kirchner’s widow and successor, has maintained the emphasis on reparation for those who lost loved ones or otherwise suffered under the dictatorship.
“We think the policy of human rights in the Argentine Republic is a policy of state,” transcending partisan differences, Capitanich said.
The Cabinet chief spoke out after the two early favorites for the 2015 election to choose Fernandez’s successor advocated limiting the human rights push.
“I believe Argentina has to close the phase of human rights, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that there were 30,000 people disappeared in the country,” said Sergio Massa, standard-bearer of the Renewal Front, a dissident faction of the same Peronist party that includes the Front for Victory.
Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, presidential hopeful of the rightist PRO, sparked the discussion last week when he said that if elected, he would end “the frauds that have been invented” in the context of the human rights policy.
Fernandez reacted to Macri’s comments by saying that it was “very painful” to hear someone talk of the defense of human rights as a fraud.
The president went on to note that while many military personnel who killed and tortured on behalf of the junta are in prison, “those who benefitted economically (from the junta’s policies) are running many companies and are alive and kicking.”
Macri is the scion of one of Argentine’s leading industrial dynasties.