January 16, 2018
Friday, May 12, 2017

Citizens flood Plaza de Mayo for landmark ‘No to 2x1’ protest

Huge demonstrations across country sees hundreds of thousands of people reject Supreme Court ruling and demand an end to impunity for those convicted of crimes against humanity

A Plaza de Mayo jam-packed with people from all walks of life rallied this week against the Supreme Court’s “2x1” ruling in the Luis Muiña case as human rights advocates led a united appeal against the possibility of those responsible for crimes against humanity being granted early release.

In a first, those present were encouraged to wear the famous white headscarves associated with the Grandmothers and Mothers of Plaza de Mayo around their necks in a show of support. One of the enduring images of the night was the seemingly endless sea of headscarves held aloft as the event reached its conclusion.

Organised in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, the rally was attended by political figures from broad swathes of the spectrum as well as unions, civil associations, NGOs and common citizens who led a peaceful demonstration rejecting the implications of the Muiña ruling. Despite the short notice prior to the mobilisation, an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 people participated in the demonstration.

“I came here today to protest against the Supreme Court’s ruling, but not because a political party called me or in defiance of the president. I came to say ‘no to impunity’ and so we can keep on advancing the trials,” one protester, 27-year-old Daniela, told the Herald.

Another demonstrater expressed his surprise at the number of people who had attended. “This is an important advance for our society. It really surprises me how large this crowd is, I didn’t think so many people sympathised with this issue — it even caught the government off guard,” said 41-year-old judicial employee Mariano Sarrabayrouse Oliveira.

Mingling side-by-side were groups that identified with the CGT and CTA umbrella unions, social organisations, multiple leftist groups, Libres del Sur and the Victory Front (FpV). While some ruling PRO party politicians said they would attend, they did so individually without their party banner. Many Let’s Change administration ministers had last week said they would respect the court’s ruling, but as the days passed by more and more started to reject it, stating they would find a legislative solution to fix the problem.

Although Congress had seemed to have closed the loophole in the Supreme Court’s 2x1 ruling earlier in the day, after they passed a law amending it, it did not stem the flow of people streaming into the plaza. The main stage was adorned with slogans such as “Judges: Never again. Not one (perpetrator of) genocide loose. Thirty-thousand detained-disappeared present.”

Other demonstraters carried photos of victims of the last military dictatorship with the date they were kidnapped or posters criticising the nation’s highest court such as “Supreme Court of injustice. Corrupt, immoral, frees death. They are 30,000. Present!”

When entering the Plaza projections could be seen on the right wall of the National Cathedral with phrases critical of the Catholic Church’s complicity in the last dictatorship’s crimes. “Here the rapists confessed. Here they sheltered the complicit. Who judges the church?” were a few of the slogans projected.

Similar rallies were held across the country with major mobilisations matching the scale of the Plaza de Mayo demonstration and groups were also active in cities in Europe and Latin America. In the coastal city of Mar del Plata, for example, thousands of people could be seen demonstrating in the San Martín plaza.

Joint statement

A joint statement drafted by Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo — Founding Line, Relatives of Disappeared People, Hijos, Cels and others laid out their position.

“We don’t want to live alongside the most bloodthirsty murderers in Argentine history, nor that our children and the future generations have to. Our people, exemplary for so many years in the defence of memory, does not deserve to be condemned to being forgotten,” it read.

“Last Wednesday, when the Supreme Court approved with a majority the shameful ruling that grants the ‘2x1’ benefit to the genocidal Luis Muiña, the door to impunity was opened. Those responsible for such a decision are the justices Carlos Rosenkrantz, Horacio Rosatti and Elena Highton de Nolasco. The day after the ruling the lawyers for the repressors were lining up in the courts to ask for the same privilege for their clients,” declared the statement read by Grandmother Estela de Carlotto and Mothers Nora Cortiñas and Taty Almeyda.

After listing repressors convicted of crimes against humanity who could potentially request the 2x1 formula such as Alfredo Astiz, Jorge “El Tigre” Acosta, Miguel Etchecolatz and Christian von Wernich, the statement underlined the emphatic response by society. “Fortunately, society has reacted firmly. Numerous judges rejected the requests for sentences to be reduced and for the setting free of many of the repressors convicted of crimes against humanity. Today, lawmakers approved a law that seeks to stop the use of 2x1 for genocides and perpetrators. These decisions have filled us with hope and gratitude. We need the representatives of the three branches of the state to take on the demands of the people that are here in this plaza. That each one of them carry out what is needed to overturn this anti-democratic and pro-dictatorship ruling.”

The crowd cycled between booing, insulting and calling the repressors “murderers” when their names were mentioned to bursting out in chants, song and cheers as the statement was being read. When the human rights leaders ended the massive gathering, they called on the participants to lift their headscarves and chant their famous chant in memory of the forced-disappeared victims. “30,000 disappeared ... present, now and forever,” chanted the crowd in unison, before the crowd slowly dispersed. It took some time.

Herald staff

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