Argentina’s dirty war: A couple I never met but always knew

by , under All categories, Enrique

It’s a long story how I ended up conscripted in the Argentinean army during the dirty war (1976-83). Being part of a country that was at war with itself was like taking a one-way stroll  down the ally of hatred with a sack over your head. Even if no sack was placed over your head, your eyes could neither see nor your ears hear what was going down. Terror has a way of numbing your senses.  

Taking into account the rise of racism and xenophobia in Europe and horrific examples of World War 2 and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, it’s clear that we cannot make a pact with the devil by remaining quiet to the threat of right-wing populist and far-right parties that are gaining strength throughout Europe.

One of the reasons why too many white Europeans aren’t too concerned about the situation is because these anti-immigration parties don’t pose a direct threat to them. As we know, these parties have declared indirectly and directly war against immigrants and other minorities.

I am grateful for the years (1977-78) I spent in Argentina. Even if  it changed my life as a young man, I now understand what it is to live under a ruthless dictatorship and why we must defend every day our civil rights.

In many respects populist and far-right parties are very much like those military dictatorships that ruled Latin America in the 1970s. I am certain that all hell would break loose in Europe if these types of parties got the chance to set their policies in motion.

The biggest losers would be our present democracies and civil rights, which are supposed to be inalienable.

How can I make such a claim? Easily. If you exclude and bash one minority by watering down their rights the impact is on the whole of society. Promoting social equality has the opposite effect.

I have adopted a couple out of the over 30,000 victims that disappeared in Argentina during the dirty war. They appeared by accident 33 years ago when I read about their disappearance on September 14, 1977.

Today Jorge Donato Calvo’s and his wife Adriana María Franconetti de Calvo’s story sits quietly on my desk.

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Jorge Donato Calvo and Adriana María Franconetti de Calvo.

According to the Buenos Aires Herald clipping, the couple left their one- and two-year old baby daughters in their home under the care of the children’s paternal grandparents and went to see a movie at the Ritz Cinema, not too far from where I used to live in Buenos Aires.

Their tragic stories was published in gruesome detail years later on a website of the victims of the dirty war of Argentina:

Adriana and Jorge were students of Buenos Aires’ National School. Jorge was a medic and he worked at the Ramos Mejía Hospital. The couple lived in Sarandi, Buenos Aires province.

The couple was kidnapped when they were standing in a line of the Ritz Cinema in the neighborhood of Belgrano in Buenos Aires. They were seen at the ESMA (Navy Petty-Officers School of Mechanics); Adriana was “transferred” one or two days after.

Adriana’s sister and brother, Anna María and Eduardo, are also missing. Her father Eduardo was kidnapped together with her sister and brother and taken to the  “Club Atlético” detention center where his children were tortured in front of him. His abductors interrogated him about Adriana’s whereabouts. They freed him but he died a short while later of a cardiac arrest.    

*The term dirty war came about when a reporter asked an officer how he’d describe the civil war in Argentina. He said: “It was a dirty war.”

 

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