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The Purge as cleansing instrument of the State Terrorism survival in Argentine culture.

                    by Eduardo R. Saguier

In other contributions of my authorship, I circunscribed myself to the emblematic figures of collaborationism and moral indifference to state terrorism.[1] In this new writing I want further to write over the purge figure, as a politicallly necessary tool destined to clean institutions which collaborated actively for the endurance of the terrorist-authoritarian Regime (1966-1983).

It is well known that at the petition of the present  National Executive Power  (PEN) the purging or purifying of the Process reminiscence -- interrupted by Pardon Laws enforcement (1987) -- has restarted with new emphasis in military force and security institutions. Nevertheless, it is gaudy and really suggestive the lack of similar instruments for other spheres of public labor struck very hard by terror, such as journalism, education, religion and its Churches, professional colleges, editing houses and cultural institutions in general. In France, during post-war, in order to erase collaboration experiences in the cultural field, new measures were taken, which went from simple administrative transfers, going through interdictions and suspensions in professional activities, dismissal, civic right deprival, reaching out up to imprisonments (Maurras), death sentences (Drieu La Rochelle, Rebatet) and summary trials (Robert Brasillach, Paul Chack, Georges Suarez).[2]

In our country, on the contrary, collaborationists in the cultural field remained totally unpunished, to the extreme that some of them were paradoxically invited to international events to debate on state terrorism together with exiled persons who had suffered it in cold and blood, as it happened in the Maryland Conference (1984), this immunity implying that it is much more negative to have resisted the authoritarian-terrorist regimes than having fought against them [3]. Since the coming of that long period of "night and fog" -- which was first the Argentine Revolution (1966), followed past Campora's spring interregnum (1973-1974), by Isabel Martinez Peron presidential period with the Ivanissevich Mission in the Ministry of Education and the Otalagano's Intervention in the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and later on by the so called Proceso (1976-83), the autoritarian-terrorist regime induced different collaborationist accomplishments to multiple cultural institutions such as churches, public and private universities, National Academies, editing houses and professional colleges. [4] Certainly, daily and weekly press was the great victim.[5]. With reference to the great press, it must be stressed the fact the criminal silence kept and never unfolded over the numerous Habeas Corpus submitted and rejected, when it is well known that those newspapers have judicial journalists on guard, permanently in Tribunales (Courts). Likewise it must be pointed out the collaborationist fervent role -- even if not the only one -- shown by certain newspapers like Nueva Provincia and Convicción. [6]

As far as the National Academies are concerned, among all of them it must be stressed the active role played by the History National Academy. At the request of the then Minister of Education Juan Llerena Amadeo, the History National Academy - in its strong pretention of imposing an official history - issued in May 1980 a regulation over what history in national education must be. The content of said Regulation --judging from a numerous group of democratic historians (Viñas, Pomer, Bayer, Chavez, Teran, Bonaudo, etc.)-- was " contradiction with Constitution principles, being a collective resignation of the most important principles of all academic life, hurts our thinking and chair freedom, goes against science integrity, underestimates prestige and harms that corporation representativity, exceeds its competence, exposes its autonomy, its immunity and pluralism and engages its future members". [7]

Apart from that Report questioned, the National Academy of History collaborated also in the make-up operation of the terrorist-authoritarian regime, offering several times the tribune to their most notorious leaders, having invited in 1977 the then Army Commander in Chief Admiral Eduardo Emilio Massera, to inaugurate an historic exhibit in its main headquarters; in November 1979 to the then Minister of Interior General Albano Harguindeguy to give the inaugurating speech of the National Congress of Desert Conquest taken place in General Roca (Rio Negro); and in October 13, 1980 to the then Municipal Mayor Brig. Osvaldo Cacciatore, to preside the opening of the IV International Congress of Latin American History. Not satisfied with this last invitation, the Directing Board of the National Academy of History, its President Enrique Barba and the numerous numbered  academicians decided to visit collectively the then de-facto President General Jorge Rafael Videla, with the excuse of accompanying the foreign guests belonging to the National Academies of History in other countries of Latin America, event profusely advertised by the daily press.

Facing such a cosmetic active collaboration with the authoritarian-terrorist regime, through a public and state honored intellectuality, the question would be, if talent and canonized illustration excuse themselves of political responsibilities, to the historians collaborating in said Regime? In the case of France, during Post-war, General De Gaulle thought that "...the greater the artist, more powerful his influence was supposed to be". [8] Therefore, for De Gaulle, being a writer does not mean an excuse.." because in letters as well as in everything in life, talent is a responsibility degree" [9].

Nevertheless, we must point out that none of the institutions detailed in note [4], complicated in actions or omissions referring to Human Rights and with the true democratic oath had verified any contrition nor they never expressed their will to produce it.  Neither the National Academy of History though it was referred to when publicly it was recriminated its complicity with the Proceso [10]. None of the members later incorporated (Botana, Gallo, Luna, Cortes Conde, Amaral, Mayo) declared themselves on said subject. And neither the national state, the Secretary on Human Rights nor the Country's Secretary of Culture, from which the National Academies depend, started a proceeding or administrative action whatsoever. If it is expected that the present Human Right Secretary Dr. Eduardo L. Duhalde takes actions, we would  expect vainly for a public satisfaction  from Eng. Torcuato Di Tella, present Country's Culture Secretary when the Instituto Di Tella itself and owned by him, elected during the Proceso to preside the Institution, an Army Colonel (Col. Beltran) to preside over the institution. In the same sense, in post-war France, each public or private writer's society, performed its own purification work, creating to that purpose The National Committees of Purification of Writers and Men of Letters.[11] In any way, according to Lottman (1998), "...all societies were obliged to do so".[12]

Finally we must conclude that for a democratic regime be definitely established and the thinking, chair and critic freedoms be a  tangible reality -- as they are in France and in Europe in general -- and not a pusillanimous expression of wishes, the political power (Secretary of Culture and Human Rights) must intervene so that the cultural and professional institutions be purified, so that authoritarian-terrorist regime collaborationists pay or compensate their guilts and omissions and those that resisted dictatorial regimes do not continue to be injustly discriminated.


1.- see Saguier, 2003a and 2003b.

2.- see Lottman, 1998, sixth part, chapter 4 and 5; and p. 478.

3.- see Saguier, 2003 c.

4.- For book censorship and persecution of public and private editing houses during Proceso according to archives discovered in the exNational Development Bank (BANADE), see Invernizzi and Gociol, 2002. Over the rendering of public tribune to the Process authorities by professional colleges (Argentine Federation of Business and Professional Women, Argentine Chamber of Advertisers, Enterprise and Market Management Association,), religious institutions (Pastoral Council of Buenos Aires Archbishoprich, National Meeting of Catholic Professionals) and numerous private associations (Buenos Aires Rotary Club, Pro-Human Behaviour League, Institute for Executive Development in Argentina, Dinner of Book, Non-religious Culture Argentine League), see Avellaneda 1986, II, p. 159, 161, 163, 167, 171, 173, 182, 185, 187, 197 and 208.

5.- Over the Argentine press and the Dirty War, 1976-1983, see Knudson, 1997. Over El Cronista Comercial and disappeared journalists Rafael Perrota and Julian Delgado, see Arriba, 1999. Over Atlantida Editing House, Gente magazine and journalist Chiche Gelblung, see Blaustein, 1999. Over Ambito Financiero (Financing Ambit) and Julio Ramos, see Bonaldi,1999. For documentary reproduction of daily press recopilation texts during the Proceso, including three hundred reproductions of covers of publications and numerous and interesting  journalistic extracts, see Blaustein and Zubieta, 1999.

6.- Over Conviccion newspaper, see Uriarte, 1999. In the Conviccion newspaper managed by Hugo Ezequiel Lezama, several conspicous cultural establishment representatives tooke part, such as Professor Luis Alberto Romero, Mariano Montemayor, Alejando Horowicz, Edgardo Arrivillaga, Ernesto Schoo, Hector Grossi, Delgado "the fat" and a La Prensa journalist whose last name was Lanus. According to Captain (Ret.) Adolfo Scilingo statements done in 1997, in those political-journalistic entrepreneurial affairs the industrialist Alberto Pierri collaborated with his factory paper as well as Moron Politician Carlos Rousselot, the attorney of Mar del Plata fishing companies Carlos Corach, the Vatican diplomat Esteban Caselli and the officer later on of Migrations Hugo Franco (Jornada, Mexico: UNAM, Monday August 28, 2000).

7.- see La Nacion, June 4, 1980, and Sunday August 4, 1985; Clarin, Saturday August 17, 1985 and La Razon, Wednesday August 14, 1985.

8.- see Lottman, 1998, 413.

9  see De Gaulle, III, 135 and following; cited by Lottman, 1998, 413.

10 see La Razon, Tuesday November 12, 1985.

11 see Burrin, 1993; and Defrasne, 1989.

12 see Lottman, 1998, 429.


Arriba, Alberto de (1999): Julian Delgado. El Cronista Comercial. Prisioneros del Silencio, en Blaustein, Eduardo y Martin Zubieta (1999), Deciamos ayer. La prensa argentina bajo el Proceso (Buenos Aires: Ed. Colihue), 224-232;

Avellaneda, Andrés (1986): Censura, autoritarismo y cultura: Argentina, 1960-1983 (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, Biblioteca Política Argentina, nos.: 156-158);

Blaustein, Eduardo (1999): Recuerdos de Editorial Atlantida. Nada como la Gente, en Blaustein, Eduardo y Martin Zubieta (1999), Deciamos ayer. La prensa argentina bajo el Proceso (Buenos Aires: Ed. Colihue), 132-142;

Blaustein, Eduardo y Martin Zubieta (1999): Deciamos ayer. La prensa argentina bajo el Proceso (Buenos Aires: Ed. Colihue);

Bonaldi, Pablo (1999): Ambito Financiero y la Dictadura de los Mercados, en Blaustein, Eduardo y Martin Zubieta (1999), Deciamos ayer. La prensa argentina bajo el Proceso (Buenos Aires: Ed. Colihue), 340-344;

Burrin, F. (1993): Le Collaborationisme, en J.-P- Azema & F. Bedarida eds. La France des annees noires (Paris: Seuil), v.I, 363-383;

Defrasne, Jean France (1989): Histoire de la Collaboration (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France);

De Gaulle, Charles (1956): Memoires de Guerre (Paris: Plon);

Invernizzi, Hernan y Judith Gociol (2002): Un Golpe a los Libros. Represion a la cultura durante la ultima dictadura militar (Buenos Aires: EUDEBA);

Knudson, Jerry W. (1997): Veil of silence: the Argentine  press and the Dirty War, 1976-1983. (Latin American Perspectives, 24:6, Nov. 1997, p. 93-112, bibl.)

Lottman, Herbert (1998): La Depuracion, 1943-1953 (Barcelona: Tusquets);

Saguier, Eduardo R. (2003a): "Indiferencia Moral durante la Dictadura para con los Desaparecidos, por parte de una Elite Intelectual Argentina";

Saguier, Eduardo R. (2003b): "Colaboracionismo con el Terrorismo de Estado Golpista en Argentina",;

Saguier, Eduardo R. (2003c): El Exilio Intelectual como Resistencia Política contra el Terrorismo de Estado. Argentina y el Coloquio de Maryland (1984),

Scilingo, Cap. Adolfo (2000): Declaraciones, Jornada (Mexico: UNAM, Lunes 28 de agosto de 2000).

Uriarte, Claudio (1999): Recuerdo de Redaccion. Invierno en Conviccion, en Blaustein, Eduardo y Martin Zubieta (1999): Deciamos ayer. La prensa argentina bajo el Proceso (Buenos Aires: Ed. Colihue), 314-318;

Eduardo R. Saguier

Posts: 9 | Posted: 10:25 PM on September 12, 2003 | IP
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