Gustavo Bellingeri was 17 years old when on September 7, 1979 he went up with his mother and older sister to a train in La Plata to go to Buenos Aires to denounce to the IACHR envoys the disappearance of his father two years earlier. "We were with other relatives, many mothers, all with their file with the complaint prepared. We had a lot of hope and I remember that there was a climate outside of us because that day the final of the Youth World Cup was played where Diego Maradona appeared as revelation", Bellingeri account.
When they arrived at Mayo Avenue, where the Organization of American States had its offices, they found an endless line. "I had mixed feelings. It was very strong to know that we were not alone and see all the dignity of those who lined up to report but on the other hand it was heartbreaking, the first time it was clear the magnitude of human rights violations," he continues Bellingerini
No family member of the disappeared has forgotten those hours they spent together outdoors. "We were very anxious, a lot of pain, but at the same time with a lot of hope because it was such a great emotion that they were finally going to listen to us," recalls Taty Almeida, president of the Mothers Association of Plaza de Mayo Founding Line, created to find To the missing children.
That same day, the Argentine youth team became champion of the World Cup. Between harangues of the players and shouts of celebration, the announcer José María Muñoz denounced the Mothers. While a crowd approached the Obelisk to celebrate, from trucks threw flyers on the line that read "Argentines are rights and human." It was the same motto with which the dictatorship had papered the city. "It was an offense to our children, but we did not fall into provocations. They could not cover the sun with their hands," says Almeida.
The IACHR remained in Argentina for two weeks. The commissioners toured clandestine detention centers and prisons in Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Tucumán and Santa Fe. They met with the Military Board, with human rights organizations, businessmen and members of civil society. They received 5580 reports of kidnappings and disappearances.
State smear campaign
The dictatorship did everything possible to hide the machinery of terror: it denounced an anti-Argentine campaign with the complicity of media stars, falsified stories in the media to discredit the Mothers and ordered to empty the Superior School of Mechanics of the Navy (ESMA) and modify its architecture so that the commissioners did not recognize the place where the hostages were tortured.
That clandestine detention center, which was passed by about 5,000 people, was converted into memory space. Its current director, Alejandra Naftal, was detained in 1978, when the trip of the IACHR began to take shape. "I was in another concentration camp, on Vesuvius, and they were already talking about this visit. They said they were going to stop parsley, that is, people with little commitment to political organizations, to release them before and that there is a contradiction between the complaints and the that appeared, "says Naftal.
As 40 years ago, the IACHR will return this Friday to Buenos Aires. That day will open the exhibition at the former ESMA The concealment of ESMA: The truth is made public, which includes testimonies, objects and documents from the 1979 visit. The commissioners will meet with state authorities and human rights organizations, who hold enormous gratitude.
The year after the visit, the IACHR published a strong report. "By the action of the public authorities and their agents, in the Argentine Republic, numerous and serious human rights violations were committed during the period to which this report is contracted – 1975-1979," the document began. Despite its ban, prominent human rights activists, such as Emilio Mignone, managed to introduce it in Argentina and made copies that were distributed clandestinely throughout the country.
"It had a huge impact," says Santiago Cantón, former secretary general of the IACHR and current Buenos Aires human rights minister. "A government agency, supposedly conservative, who denounced that here they had disappeared, torture and a systematic plan and did it in a very professional and very rigorous way. It was the first report of that nature," he says.
For Canton, among the factors that explain the success of the visit are first of all the victims, "mothers who challenged a criminal dictatorship standing in line to file the complaint, with the military there challenging them and the best-known radio announcer speaking negatively from them. " He considers that the attitude and firmness of the commissioners and the subsequent effort of civil society to circulate the report also influenced. "With the report there was no doubt that the dictatorship was very serious. Everything changed there." It was the beginning of the end of the dictatorship.