'The government won the elections, but people are being gravely affected by its policies'
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line member Nora Cortiñas criticises the Macri administration’s handling of Santiago Maldonado’s disappearance and coverage of the case by the ‘lying, shameless media’ on visit to London.
Fermín Koop is an economic and environmental journalist from Buenos Aires.
Forty years on from those first days when her organisation began knocking on doors, trying to shed light on the dark days of the last military dictatorship (1976-1983), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line member Nora Cortiñas still sees plenty of reasons to take to the streets.
This week, she travelled to London– on the invitation of the Argentina Solidarity Campaign, a UK-based collective formed in 2000 – where she shared her concerns about the policies and actions of the Mauricio Macri administration. While in the UK, Cortiñas gave lectures at the University of Cambridge and the University of London and participated at a vigil outside the Argentine Embassy in London for Santiago Maldonado, lighting candles of remembrance and leaving flowers. She also met with Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party.
In an exclusive interview with the Buenos Aires Times, Cortiñas explained why she holds the Macri administration accountable for Maldonado’s disappearance and was fiercely critical of how the Argentine media covered the case.
Why did you decide to visit the UK right now?
It was a good time to come, especially now that so many lies are being told regarding what was the forced disappearance of Santiago [Maldonado]. We are concerned that the government is lying to the world and not just Argentines, in order to avoid paying the political cost for its actions. The entire government is responsible for what happened to Maldonado.
What concerned you the most about the government’s actions in the case?
The body was planted in order to make it appear that he hadn’t gone missing. But there are witnesses that saw he was taken. In order to protect the Gendarmerie (Border Guards), the government is denying everything. Now the judiciary will have to investigate what happened. We have been trying to find out the truth about our children for 40 years; it seems like a lie, that the story is now repeating itself again. Some media outlets have been criticised because of their coverage of the case. We saw some of the worst aspects of the Argentine media during the Maldonado case. A lying and shameless media. It’s hard to believe they act like that, after so many reporters that disappeared during the last coup. There are many that work honestly, but we were really disappointed with their work regarding Santiago. They harmed the boy’s parents.
How do you view the recent win in the legislative elections by the Macri administration?
The government won the presidency and now the legislative elections with votes and that’s progress. But the people are being gravely affected by its policies. We knew it was a right-wing government but we would have never have foreseen such policies. Argentina is sad but its people are fighting. We don’t deserve these economic measures, which will become even harsher after the recent announcements by Macri.
You are now in the UK after having recently visited the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands. How was that experience?
We travelled to Malvinas to pay our respects to all the soldiers that died there, both Argentine and British. We felt the same as all the mothers who lost their sons through such a useless and unnecessary war, which we, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, didn’t approve. The islands are Argentine and we will fight to get them back but with no war or death. But this time through the path of justice.
How did you receive the news of the upcoming resignation of Attorney General Alejandra Gils Carbó?
The government acted dishonestly with her. She had to resign because the government wanted to fire her, with what can only be described as an immoral attitude. She had been appointed with plenty of merit and didn’t commit any crime in order to be fired. She resigned [at this time] to show she is an honest woman.
According to recent reports, the government is planning to authorise the Armed Forces to intervene in situations of foreign attacks, including terrorism, a move that was banned in 2006 by late president Néstor Kirchner. How would you feel about such a move?
The government sometimes forgets that it’s a civil government voted for by the people and not the Armed Forces. We disagree with such a way of ruling. These kinds of policies have to be reviewed. Argentina’s image to the world is getting cloudy. If we fought against a bloody coup, we can stand against a civil government that wants to imitate the country’s dark past. We will have to be on the streets with the people, with more strength than before.
What role do you see for your organisation in the future, which recently celebrated it’s 40th anniversary?
We’ll have to keep fighting. Us mothers don’t give up. We have clear principles that we intend to follow. We’ll keep seeking truth, justice and memory. We don’t want to reconcile with the murderers and torturers that stole our children. We’ll keep fighting until the last day we are alive.