White House sources have confirmed that US President Barack Obama intends on honoring those disappeared during the last military dictatorship during his visit to Argentina next week, which falls on the 40th anniversary of the 1976 coup that installed the sordid six-year regime.
“The President will honor the victims of the Dirty War, as well as those who defended human rights during that period,” Mark Feierstein, Obama’s top Latin America policy advisor on the National Security Council, said. He apparently plans to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires.
This is a delicate matter, of course, given the US’ involvement in the Argentine dictatorship. It is now common knowledge that then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger encouraged and provided strategic support to the violence that saw some 30,000 “disappeared” — seized and taken to internment centers to be tortured and killed — as part of the proxy wars fought in the Cold War’s context.
Obama advisor Ben Rhodes added that the US head of state would likely address the difficult history between the two nations.
“He believes that part of moving forward in the Americas or any other part of the world involves a clear-eyed recognition of the past,” he said.
Obama’s visit — the first State visit in 19 years — has been riddled with controversy from the very start given the auspicious day on which it falls. Human rights groups have denounced his presence in Buenos Aires on the 24th, a day that traditionally hosts massive demonstrations throughout the city. In fact, on the advice of both US and Argentine officials, Obama restructured his plans to not be in the capital on that day by traveling south to Bariloche. A few days ago, however, he seems to have changed his mind and said he was interested in visiting Remembrance Park, a memorial to the victims of the last military dictatorship located in the neighborhood of Núñez, on the 24th.
- Read more: Obama Said He’s ‘Interested’ In Visiting The Remembrance Park In Buenos Aires On March 24th
The last dictatorship notwithstanding, Argentina and the US have endured a complicated relationship over the years, generally characterized by a love-hate roller coaster. Obama recently praised President Mauricio Macri‘s bid to improve US-Argentine relations and condemned what he saw as anti-US sentiments spread under former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration.