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Part II
The Victims

Nunca Más (Never Again) - Report of Conadep  - 1984


The Christian faith of the Armed Forces contrasted with the un-Christian nature of the repression

The contradictions in those who were responsible for the repression know no limits: while advocating a Western, Christian style of life the lack of respect shown towards human beings was constant.

In April 1976 the then Colonel Juan Bautista Sasiaiñ, who later became Head of the Federal Police, declared that 'The Army values a human being as such because the Army is Christian' (La Nación,10 April 1976). A year later Admiral Emilio Massera said:

As far as we are concerned, when we act in a political capacity we continue to be Catholics, just as Catholic priests when acting religiously continue to be citizens. It would be a sin of pride to assume that either one or the other is infallible in their judgments and decisions. Nonetheless, when everyone is inspired by love, which is the basis of our religion, no problems exist and relations between people are at their best, which is the way of Christians. (Interview given to the magazine Familia Cristiana and reproduced by the newspaper Clarín on 13 March 1977.)

It is also worth remembering how, more recently, General Jorge Rafael Videla referred to the 'Final Report on the Disappeared', which was published by the Military junta (April, 1983), as 'an act of love'. Let us see how this love for one's neighbour was interpreted, through a few witnesses' accounts:

For Christmas 1977 the internal security measures were reinforced and something extraordinary happened. About fifteen of us prisoners were taken to attend a Mass in the officers' mess of the Navy Mechanics School. In the hall of the dormitories a simple altar had been erected and benches had been laid out. We were all in chains, with our hands tied behind our backs and our heads covered with hoods. They removed our hoods and Captain Acosta said that to celebrate the feast of Christmas in a Christian manner he had decided that those of us who were believers should be allowed to hear Mass, go to confession and receive communion, and that those of us who were not believers could attend, to benefit from spiritual peace; and that all of us should think that life and peace were possible and that everything was possible in the Navy Mechanics School. Meanwhile we could hear the shrieks of people being tortured, and the noise of chains being dragged by prisoners as they went to the bathroom in 'La Capucha'. In my case, my Christian upbringing and the pressure of everything that I was living through made me go to confession. There they put on our hoods. (Testimony of Lisandro Raúl Cubas, file No. 6974.)

Around 24 December 1976 Admiral Massera, together with Rear-Admiral Chamorro, Captain Acosta and some of the members of Task Force 3 made an appearance. on this occasion, with a cynicism and hypocrisy that seemed to know no bounds, and in front of about thirty prisoners with their legs in chains, they wished us 'A Happy Christmas'. (Testimony of Graciela Daleo and Andrés Castillo, file No. 4816)

... before letting us lie down on the floor to go to sleep, the guards forced us to say an 'Our Father' and a 'Hail Mary' out loud, and at the same time they told us 'to give thanks to God for being able to live one day more' and that 'this may not be the last day', Then we went to sleep. (Testimony of Juan Martín, file No. 440.)

Next I was put through two simulated attempts on my life: one by shooting and the other by poison. Before these simulations I was asked if I wanted to pray and was given a rosary. By means of touch (my eyes were blindfolded) I recognized that the object they had given me was not a rosary but a cross that my daughter always wore round her neck (an object that was quite unmistakable as it was hand-crafted). I understood that this was a sadistic way of telling me that my daughter was there as well. I prayed and wept. They replied by swearing at me, and with threats and shouts. They said. 'Be quiet. That's what happens for going around with that bearded man ... with that homo ... (they were referring to Jesus Christ). 'That's why you're here now.' (Testimony of Leonor Isabel Alonso, file No. 5263.)

They took us to Police Station No. 36 of the Federal Police at Villa Soldati ... When I screamed, they whistled and made a noise to cover up my cries. Afterwards they took me to a cell, and soon others came to tell me that 'I was going to the Military', that I was going to see that the Romans did not know a thing when they persecuted the first Christians in comparison with the Argentine Military. (Testimony of Father Patrick Rice, file No. 6976.)

By means of a friend, who works in a private company which requests information from the State Intelligence Services before employing a person, I sent the name of María Leonor, and the answer was 'detained in an anti-Jesuit operation in Mendoza'. I spoke to Father Iñaqui de Azpiazu and he learnt through a wellknown member of the Army that the operation in question had taken place, but he couldn't provide more details. 'Deposition on the disappearance of María Leonor Mercuri Monzó presented by her mother, Dolores Monzó de Mercuri, file No. 378.)

Nonetheless the torturers were apparently confused and did not have details on the main subject of the interrogation, the Church. When they learnt that I was Catholic they made me pray and made the other prisoners pray, but this ended violently when I prayed for those who were keeping us captive. (Testimony of Nestor Busso, file No. 2095.)

... the person who was interrogating me lost patience, and became angry, saying, 'You are not a guerrilla, you don't believe in violence, but you don't realize that when you go to live (in the shanty towns) with your culture, you are joining people, joining poor people, and to unite with poor people is subversion.'
On about the seventeenth or eighteenth day the man who had treated me with respect during the interrogation told me: '... you are an idealistic priest, a mystic, I would say, a pious priest, and the only error you have committed was that you interpreted Christ's doctrine in too literal a way. Christ spoke of the poor, but when he spoke of the poor he spoke of the poor in spirit and you interpreted this in a literal way and went to live, literally, with poor people. In Argentina those who are poor in spirit are the rich and in future you must spend your time helping the rich, who are those who really need spiritual help.' (Testimony of the priest Orlando Virgilio Yorio, file No. 6328.)

…I already knew that I was in the infamous Navy Mechanics School.
I stayed there in the basement for eight months and for the last four I was taken to sleep in the attic. There I found out about the horrors of 'La Capucha', which I had only heard about before. In the basement I saw people who had been kidnapped arriving. I lived in the midst of the cries of torture, I heard the screaming of babies born in captivity. I really learnt what the 'dirty war' was all about and how it was carried out by people who took decisions on the lives of other people as if they were numbers, guided - they said - by the hand of God who had entrusted them with 'this great task'. (Testimony of Nilda Noemí Actis Goretta, file No. 6321.)

...At one time Bishop Witte came to the prison accompanied by Captain Marco who was carrying the son of Graciela Borelli in his arms, who had been born in captivity. She - Graciela - was being held in another part of the same prison. The Bishop gave Mass for the prisoners, and our arms were tied by a prison warder during the service. At the end of Mass the Bishop proceeded to give each prisoner a medal and an embrace which he said was a gift from Pope Paul VI to Political prisoners. When I embraced him I told him to let my family know that I was in this prison, that I was well, and they should not worry about me. My family never received the message. (Testimony of Plutarco Antonio Schaller, file No. 4952.).




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