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Argentine Terror

In response to:

Terror in Argentina from the October 28, 1976 issue

To the Editors:

The article appearing in your issue of October 28 by Mort Rosenblum, entitled “Argentina’s Terror,” provided ample information highlighting the crisis and the violations of human and civil rights in Argentina. However the article is deceptively balanced. Essentially it presents both government and right-wing violence (which are synonymous as it clearly shows) as a response to leftist violence. We feel that the facts in this case do not lead to this conclusion since rightist violence has by far surpassed both that of the left and rational limits.

For instance, the anti-Semitism rampant in the Argentine officer corps and in the paramilitary death squads have made the Jewish community of Argentina the target of savage repression. In particular the unrestrained activities of the Argentine National Socialist Front, which blames Argentina’s present problems on a “Jewish-Bolshevik Plutocracy,” has caused a geometric growth in the extent of anti-Semitic violence. Yet the military junta has refused to protect its Jewish citizens, and has made it known that since it estimates that 20 percent of all guerrillas are of Jewish descent, “no one should be surprised by recent events.” As the World Union of Jewish Students (in its report on anti-Semitism in Argentina of October 15, 1976) pointed out, the persecution of Jews and the reaction of the Argentine government to it are strongly reminiscent of the worst days of Nazi Germany.

Another group affected are psychiatrists and mental health specialists. Freud is blamed for brainwashing Argentina’s youth (see WUJS report); and since Freud was Jewish and there are Jewish psychiatrists, it follows (at least in their minds) that psychiatrists and mental health specialists are subversives.

Yet as Rosenblum well pointed out the repression is not limited to any one group, but includes bishops, priests, students, workers, peasants, professionals, academicians, housewives, and even children. In October 1976 the League for the Rights of Man published a report on the murder of 130 children by security forces, because they allegedly were the sons and daughters of guerrillas. Repression is applied by the junta regardless of guilt, political involvement or age. To dissent, to speak out against repression has become a crime punishable by torture and death. Indeed torture has become increasingly specialized in Argentina. Early in November the Argentine press reported the retirement of two officers who were torture specialists. The first specialized in mutilations, the second in rapes.

At present the government of the United States gives between 30 and 40 million dollars a year in military aid to Argentina. This aid is going up with the proposed budget for 1977 to $49.3 million. There is already a strong movement in Congress to cut off this aid. Yet much support is needed. Write to your congressman asking him/her to help in the efforts to cut off this military aid. In addition anyone interested in more information can write to us and we shall be glad to provide it.

Pablo Cabrera

Argentine Information Service Committee

339 Lafayette Street

New York, New York 10012

Mort Rosenblum replies:

Mr. Cabrera, in protesting that the article was too balanced, appears to suggest that journalists must take sides and slant their approach to suit their beliefs. But if we are to understand and react to situations like the violence in Argentina, we must have an accurate and fair picture.

Official terror has surpassed the left-wing violence it was originally designed to suppress. The provocations from the left have included random assassinations of rookie policemen, kidnapings of innocent civilians, and indiscriminate bombings which have killed working-class children. To say, as Mr. Cabrera does, that the present anti-Semitism in Argentina recalls Hitler’s ovens is an exaggeration which puts in doubt the veracity of the other statements he makes. Such overstatement will not help in dealing with the serious anti-Semitism that does exist.

It is not surprising that many people feel that the Argentine government has acted viciously. But such judgments should be based on a fair reading of the facts, and on a clear analysis of their complex background. From Mr. Cabrera’s letter, I take his charge of being “deceptively balanced” as a compliment, and thank him for it.

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