Did Argentina ever have slaves

The consistent musician

March 24th marks the 25th anniversary of the military coup in your country. How are you going to spend this day?

We will give a concert to remember what happened during the dictatorship. Our songs will have a central message: There is no mercy on the murderers! Until there is justice. Although I was asked to play in Buenos Aires a day later, I'll be inland that day. There I give a concert for handicapped children. I will be leaving Buenos Aires consciously, because basically March 24th is a day like any other for us. In everything we do, no matter when or where we are, we will always sing for the disappeared, their mothers and grandmothers.
In addition, we have a very long experience with military coups in Argentina. When we talk about the coup, we mean the 1976 coup, but there have been three since 1930. Onganía, Levingston and Lanusse are the names of the previous Juntachefs. I grew up during the Lanusse dictatorship and that was when the social struggles began. The people were tired of the dictatorship and began to campaign for democracy. The only chance at the time was to join the seedy person of Juan Perón, who was in exile in Spain. When he returned to Argentina, however, he had the young revolutionaries who had campaigned most for his return expelled from the Plaza de Mayo. When Perón died, his widow Isabel Perón became president, and the first wave of repression began with the formation of the Triple A (Anti-Communist Alliance of Argentina), that is, at the time of a democratic, Peronist government. There were the first murders of trade unionists and leaders who were active in the social struggles. I think the Triple A was founded to find out who these young people were who got involved here. And even before the military coup took place, the military submitted an order to the Isabel Perón government to destroy these young people for signature. Carlos Ruckauf, president and current governor of the province of Buenos Aires, also signed it. Ruckauf had only recently confirmed that he had signed such an order and would not regret it. Therefore, the coup is not just a military affair, because when the military finally seized power, they had a signed order to destroy these so-called subversive youths.

What was the reaction of the population to the coup?

The biggest problem is that people in Argentina are used to living under military rule. In these times there was always a repressive and paternalistic upbringing. For years, 60 to 70 percent of the population was okay with what the military was doing. So the problem is not that a small group of military wanted a coup, but that almost the entire country wanted a coup. For many it is only now becoming clear what barbarism reigned under the dictatorship.

What are the songs of a man in 2001 who became famous for his lyrics against the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s?

The songs that were written after the dictatorship are in turn a result of the dictatorship. They arose from people's memories. Your point is to remember the crimes and to avoid such a thing from happening again.
In the Perón era we did música social. We have worked with union leaders, the unemployed and workers on the verge of being sacked. When the military dictatorship began, our music became the music of the resistance, and records by Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Víctor Jara or myself were only available under the counter. There were endless blacklists of songs that weren't allowed to be played on the radio. Anyone who became too popular was simply thrown out. And so some musicians have spent some time abroad, in the case of Mercedes Sosa even seven years. When democracy came back with Raúl Alfonsín in 1983, we were all able to return and work in full freedom, albeit within a framework in which the consequences of the dictatorship can be felt. Then there are the effects of capitalist globalization. And from then on we made música consecuencia, that is, music of the consistency that this story brought with it.

“Sólo le pido a dios” (“This is the only thing I ask God for”) is one of your most famous songs. You once said that God means the people. What do you ask of the people?

I composed this song in 1978. At that time there was a threat of war between Argentina and Chile because of ongoing border disputes, and to prevent this war I wrote this song. The military told me I should never sing this song again, because we were in a time of war and one shouldn't sing songs about peace. Later, when Argentina lost the Malvinas War against England in 1982, the military made this song a matter of national concern. And the law stipulated that it had to be broadcast on the radio. Today I basically want the same things as I did then. That the people stand up for peace. What I want to achieve with the songs, and what I keep talking about, is that people stand up for their rights: a roof over their heads, work, food for the children, education for the children, a hospital place for every sick person and free time, that Right to free yourself from everyday life and enjoy life.

How important is the process that was made to the military after the end of the dictatorship?

After the experience of this brutal military dictatorship, it seemed impossible for many that there would be a trial against the perpetrators. I remember that in 1985 there were always thousands of people standing on the grounds around the court. When the main culprits were sentenced to life imprisonment, it was like a celebration of human rights. But when Alfonsín passed the Endpoint Law in 1986 and the Law on Emergency Orders in 1987, they were very bitter and hard blows. The Emergency Orders Act was passed by Congress, and in just three hours they got it all done. This general pardon meant that all acts of the military would go unpunished. It involved 3,000 to 4,000 people who were known to be the worst torturers and murderers. Only the main figures of the dictatorship, who had already been sentenced to life, remained in custody. These were then amnestied by Menem at the beginning of his term in office.

Does justice and law enforcement still play a role in Argentina?

It's such a thing with the judiciary. Like the concept of justice, it is defined by the powerful. Many countries in the world have proven this again and again, including Germany, where the majority of Nazi criminals were not brought to justice. And if they were threatened with legal proceedings, then they just emigrated to us, for example, in Argentina. In Spain, too, the criminals of the Franco dictatorship were dealt with extremely leniently. Justice will only ever show itself where there is fighting. On the side of the poor and the common people, it will never come automatically. While we are discussing which laws should be applied, the perpetrators have been roaming free for 25 years now. But when something like the trials happens in Spain, it is like a sigh of relief for the people who stand up for human rights. The people in Argentina are already informed about these processes. But there is only one daily newspaper that actually writes what is happening, and that's where all threatening letters come in. The biggest problem is the fear of being murdered. The people who come to kill them don't read any laws beforehand, they'll throw a bomb in your house and that's it. Most of all, ordinary people in Argentina feel the need to forget what happened. You wonder why this happened to us. I always answer: It happened to us, because it is us, because we think the way we think.

What do you think of the Argentine military being brought to justice abroad?

In Latin America none of the torturers and murderers has ever been convicted. And if they were convicted, they were given amnesty afterwards. So there is no solution in Latin America, on the contrary, the laws actually protect them. If someone says you don't have to condemn them in Spain, we do that in Argentina, that's just a lie. I believe part of the solution could be the establishment of an international criminal court. However, the judiciary is very weak because it is always on the side of power. In England they had Pinochet. After his return he showed everyone the finger. In Italy they had Olivera, and let him go again. Cavallo is now based in Mexico and has not yet been delivered to Spain. Recently, President De la Rúa was asked what he thought of an international court of law. He agrees, but only from today, everything before that doesn't count.

How present is the history of the dictatorship among young people?

The crimes of the dictatorship are not discussed in schools and other educational institutions. There is no textbook in which it says that 30,000 people perished under the military rule, and neither is there in Chile. It's just being factored out, like there's a hole in there that shouldn't be talked about. This hole has been deep for 25 years, that's two generations. That is why it is necessary to come to an understanding at the demonstrations or in talks with the relatives of the disappeared. Including all of this in the education system is definitely a goal without which the past cannot be addressed. We fight to ensure that children and young people in lower and middle school are also taught the history that the whole country knows about. If the children no longer learn what solidarity is, they no longer learn the meaning of human rights, then they don't care about anything. Everything is just shit for them. And they are right about that. That's why I take their music from them. I listen to the music of the bands from 15 to 28 year olds. It is aggressive and loud so that you can't or don't have to hear anything else. Very few people take drugs, but they pierce their faces and bodies and put rings through them. I believe in her, why not? But that doesn't mean it will always be like this. Perhaps there will be a new generation who will learn something about the crimes of the military dictatorships in their countries in school.

Argentina today describes itself as a democracy ...

Argentina is a democracy today.

What is the human rights situation today?

It is very difficult for Latin Americans to believe in laws. While we are talking about the laws with which the Spanish judiciary or the public prosecutor's office in Nuremberg can take action, the Argentine police are again making young people disappear. 700 new disappearances during democracy are believed to be the responsibility of the police. During the ten years of Menem, 150,000 children and young people died of hunger and disease. That's why people are desperate. And while we search for old laws, we need to find new ones in response to what is happening.

What remains?

It has to be fought, in spite of all this and every day. Because the struggle is connected with hope and hope with utopia. And that gives us the strength to do so.

The text is the summary of an interview with León Gieco and his explanations during an event on the topic “Disappeared - past and forgotten? History in Latin America ”, which took place as part of the Music and Politics Festival in Berlin on February 23.


Originally from the village of Cañada Rosquín, Santa Fe, Gieco made a name for himself as a critical songwriter and singer in his Argentine homeland as early as 1973.
During the military dictatorship he had to leave his homeland, but he returned in 1978 and wrote "Sólo le pido a Dios ..." in response to the dictatorships in South America, one of the songs that other singers such as Mercedes Sosa interpreted all over the world made known.
Even after the end of the dictatorship, his finger remained on the wounds. His songs against the impunity of the military, the 500-year enslavement of the continent and the wealth of the one at the expense of the other are impressive.
His lyrics are not ostensibly political, they have music and soul, as he himself puts it. He only recently showed astonishing musical - and lyrical - willingness to experiment with the CD Orozco. With his interpretations of South American folklore such as Chacareras, Chamamés, etc. (“Pensar en Nada”, “De Usuhaia a La Qiaca”), he helped it to regain great popularity.
A thread that spins through his entire work despite all the diversity, however, always remains the rebellious nostalgia, the autumn in the heart, which suspects a spring.


The memory

The old loves that are no more / the expectation of those who lose / all the promises that pass / that were made in every war
Everything is kept in memory
The dream of life and history

The deceit and complicity / the genocide that roam free / the pardon and the "end point" / for the beasts of that hell

Two thousand ate a whole year / of what the military squandered in a minute / How many would no longer be slaves / for the price of a bomb into the sea
Everything is burned into the memory
Backbone of life and history
All the dead of the AMIA / and the embassy of Israel
The secret power of guns / The judiciary is watching without seeing
Everything is hidden in the memory
Refuge of life and history

Back when the churches were silent / when all of a sudden there was only football / then it was when the Palotines and Angelelli / shed their blood in the mud
Everything is hidden in the memory
Refuge of life and history

Memory breaks out and conquers / the peoples who want to crush it / and who they will not let go / free as the wind

The bullet on Chico Mendez in Brazil / 150 thousand Guatemalans / The miners who oppose the gun / Repression against the students in Mexico
All of this weighs on the memory
Weapon of life and history
Memory arrives and kills / The peoples who keep it silent / And do not let them fly / Free as the wind

Leon Gieco