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ARGENTINA | 12-09-2023 19:27

Convicted dictatorship killer donated to Victoria Villarruel’s election campaign

Days after Victoria Villarruel sparked controversy at the City Legislature, it emerges that Luis Abelardo Patti – one of the most feared kidnappers and killers from the era of state terrorism during Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship – gave money to the election campaign of Javier Milei’s running-mate.

Luis Abelardo Patti is serving three sentences of life imprisonment for kidnapping and murder committed between 1976 and 1983 during the era of Argentina’s last military dictatorship. He was convicted of being a “primary participant” in crimes including torture, kidnapping and murder. 

Patti, who headed the Escobar police station of the Buenos Aires Province police force during the era of state terrorism, is also currently standing trial on charges he was involved in the death of a former Peronist deputy and the attempted murder of the ex-lawmaker's secretary.

But perhaps Victoria Villarruel, Javier Milei’s running-mate in the October 22 presidential election, sees it differently. And it does make sense somehow: she comes from a military family, and to many in that world in the early 2000s, she was then the gateway to a one-on-one meeting with Jorge Rafael Videla after to her group, Jóvenes por la Verdad (“Youths for the truth”), began coordinating interviews with the former dictator while he was detained  in custody.

Would Villarruel have accepted money from the bloodiest dictator in this country’s history? It is a counterfactual, impossible to know. Although Patti can maybe point us in the right direction – she did accept contributions from him for her 2021 electoral campaign. The woman who could be Argentina’s next vice-president met with a convicted human rights criminal and took his money, which was more symbolic than a true monetary boost to the coffers. What was the message contained within that envelope? That ‘we criminals’ are with you? ‘If you get to office, remember us?’

Those questions are floating in the air, but they have been underlined in heavy red pen because someone else who handed her money was Raúl Granillo Ocampo, a former justice minister during Carlos Menem’s government and the author of a sweeping pardon for nearly 200 officers from the Armed Forces accused of crimes against humanity.

Villaruel walk that lines so finely it just might break. She is much more sophisticated than the leaders who came before her who boasted about their support for genocidal generals. She understood the spirit of the times better: she claims today that the 30,000 disappeared are “mythology”, that “on March 24, we only remember a part of history.” She argues “during a war it’s legal to kill your enemy” and that after the coup “the population started to be more protected.”

Villarruel does take care, however, not to speak in favour of or justify the dictatorship. She does not condemn it, she talks of a “de facto government” with Videla as the “de facto.” She states that state terrorism did not exist but, with skill as cold as a Moscow winter, she avoids defending it.

She walks that line. Provoking, trying to be as politically incorrect as possible… that is her best weapon. Villarruel became known by challenging the established human rights discourse, thanks to panel debates, and she began building her character. It will not change now.

Her great political capital, which allowed her to take the second spot in the La Libertad Avanza ticket in 2021, is precisely that: to be the face of hard nationalism.

“To those of you who call me a genocide, a fascist, a denialist, I say I greet that with a smile,” she said in her 2021 election campaign closing rally. “They’re the same people justifying the crimes of communism. We don’t have to say excuse me or sorry for the way we think. If defending the impunity of terrorism is left wing, then I’m right wing. If voting for such laws as the Micaela Law, imposing inclusive language, if agreeing with a gender ideology which discriminates between men and women is left wing, then I’m right wing.”

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Juan Luis González

Juan Luis González

Periodista de política.

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