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Why Are Human Rights Organisations Against The New National Holiday Proposal?

By | [email protected] | December 2, 2016 4:59pm


While some people on the ground were starting to get enthusiastic about the changes that the Macri administration recently put forward regarding feriados (namely in that it increased the number of long weekends), the proposal faced backlash from various human rights organisations and ex-servicemen.

The bill that’s supposed to be sent to Congress this week is seeking to make some feriados “moveable”, meaning the holidays will no longer take place on the same day every year. Included in these are the “Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice” and the “Day of the Veterans and Fallen of the Malvinas War”.

According to the government report, only five national holidays will remain unchanged, in addition to Christmas and New Year’s Day: Good Friday, May 1st (Labour Day), May 25th (May Revolution Day), July 9th (Independence Day), December 8th (Mother’s Day).

The changes mean that next year, for example, the Day of Remembrance (24th March) will fall on a Friday but the non-working day will take place on the next Monday instead, the 27th. Since its introduction in 2006, during the 30th anniversary year of the 1976 military coup, the feriado has always occurred on the day of commemoration because it was intended to be a time of reflection, rather than an opportunity for commercial gain or tourism.

This last part stands in contrast to one of the Macri administration’s public objectives — using long weekends to boost tourism and economic activity.

Journalist and former serviceman Edgardo Esteban, talking to, called the decision an “atrocity”. He remarked: “There are dates that mark a path, moments that have to be remembered. We must have opportunities to remember the deaths and horror. This has to do with the Government wanting us to live in the present but there are dates that create a sense of belonging and must be immovable. They construct history and identity.”

Estela de Carlotto, President of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, also shared Esteban’s disapproval, stating that the decision was made in an attempt to “erase history and reduce public participation.” In her opinion, it’s a way for the Government to generate fewer protests and manifestations, “it’s an effort to erase the commemoration of a genocide. They are trying to change social mentality because there are dates that are sacred. What will happen is that they’ll be able to move the feriado of the 24th to another day, and they want the 24th – the Day of Remembrance – to become like any other day.”

Day of Remembrance manifestation in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires. Photo via Ámbito

Carlotto went on to say, however, that she was not surprised by this latest proposal: “There are awful things coming together every day, which join other issues such as money laundering for the relatives of government officials. This seems like a thing of horror. Human rights organisations will get together and we’ll undoubtedly make a statement repudiating this. But I am sorry to say that it does not surprise me, but the important thing is that we should not get used to this kind of thing.”

Along the same vein, the former deputy secretary for the Promotion of Human Rights, Carlos Pisoni, spoke about the bill. “This has to do with the Government’s ideological notions – they want to try to change the paradigm of Human Rights. It’s consistent with their use of terms such as “dirty war”, their questioning of the number of disappeared and the fact that they cut the budget of the Secretariat of Human Rights by 20 percent. It matters little to them that this is not just a question of a day but, by law, it is a month of awareness in the schools.”

They have a good point, right? Feriados like the “Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice” and the “Day of the Veterans and Fallen of the Malvinas War” were created for a reason and it kind of makes no sense to have the corresponding holidays on different days that have no significance.