Mass graves found in Argentina – archive, 1982
The bodies of up to 400 people who “disappeared” in Argentina during the 1970s may be buried in unmarked graves in a cemetery outside Buenos Aires, according to human rights groups.
The claim followed the identification of a body exhumed from one of 88 paupers’ graves at Grand Bourg cemetery west of the capital. The body was dug up after relatives of a man missing since 1976 were informed by the Interior Ministry that his body would be found there.
Although the graves were unmarked, cemetery workers were able to identify the body from a secret registry of burials in the paupers’ plot, according to human rights activists. Each of the graves were estimated to contain up to five bodies.
Spokesmen for the human rights groups called on the Government for a full investigation.
The cemetery is not far from the army First Corps garrison at Campo de Mayo, and it is suggested that military lorries delivered “six or seven” bodies a week for burial at the cemetery at the height of the campaign against subversion in the mid to late 1970s.
The burials took place at night, according to people living near the plot, which was declared a municipal graveyard in 1976, the year when the armed forces seized power. The authorities reportedly planned to dig up the bodies and transfer them to a mass grave.
Estimates suggest that between 6,000 and 15,000 people disappeared during the “dirty war” after being seized at their homes or in the street by men claiming to belong to the armed forces or security services.
Although the Government is seeking an accord with civilian politicians which would effectively close the door on an inquiry into the “dirty war” after the promised return to democracy by March 1984, the issue refuses to go away.
Recently, it has moved to the forefront of Argentine affairs after the murder of Mr Marcelo Dupont, whose brother, Gregorio, had testified in a judicial inquiry into the kidnapping and death of Miss Elena Holmberg, an Argentine diplomat, almost four years ago.
The authorities have claimed that Miss Holmberg’s death and the disappearance in 1977 of another diplomat, Mr Hector Hidalgo Sola, the ambassador to Venezuela, were the work of terrorists.
Both disappearances and now the murder of Mr Dupont have been linked to retired Admiral Emilio Massera, who as head of the navy was a partner in the 1976 coup, but now leads the small Social Democratic party.
The regime’s already dented image has been further damaged by revelation that some of the biggest names in the Argentine military were involved in a dubious house-building scheme using $2.2 million in public funds borrowed on favourable terms.
The scheme, the Partagas co-operative which involved 15 generals and other senior army officers, was wound up as a failure last year.