The United States handed thousands of documents Friday to Argentina on disappearances by the former US-backed military dictatorship, completing Washington's biggest-ever transfer of documents to another government.
With a ceremony at the National Archives, the grand Greco-Roman building in central Washington that is home to the US Constitution and other founding documents, the United States fulfilled a pledge made three years ago by then-US president Barack Obama when he honoured the victims of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship on a visit to Buenos Aires.
Receiving the files from the archivist of the United States, Justice Minister German Garavano said the documents "will be fundamental to justice."
"This is good news for the Argentine people to learn from the past and not repeat this in the future," he said.
In an accompanying letter to his counterpart Mauricio Macri, US President Donald Trump said the declassification "demonstrates our shared commitment to promoting open and transparent government."
"It also reflects the importance that the United States places in its relations with Argentina," said Trump, who visited Buenos Aires in late 2018. "My hope is that access to these records provides the people of Argentina information to help in the healing process."
The US State Department said that Washington was releasing 6,000 new documents, bringing the total handed over through the project to 50,000 pages.
The files include memoranda and correspondence from the US State Department, CIA, the FBI and other agencies that detail what the United States knew about the abuses in Argentina.
Approximately 30,000 people were killed or remain disappeared from the era, when security forces and right-wing paramilitaries hunted down any perceived leftists in a campaign of state terrorism.
The military ousted leftist president Isabel Perón in 1976, one of a series of coups in Latin America supported by the United States under top diplomat Henry Kissinger as part of the worldwide offensive against communism.
The National Security Archive, the history project at George Washington University that frequently takes legal action to declassify documents, praised the comprehensiveness of the release.
"The Argentina Project represents a new model of declassification diplomacy, and more," said Carlos Osorio, an analyst at the archive.
For the declassification project, 25 employees dedicated more than 1,300 hours to identifying and reviewing files that may be relevant, US officials said.
In its statement on the release, the US State Department said the project began after a promise made by the US government to the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights groups.
"Begun with a promise in 2000 to the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, this effort to shed light on human rights abuses has spanned nearly 20 years and four administrations," a statement read.
"Until now, the US government had released approximately 6,000 documents pertaining to persons disappeared by the junta in Argentina. Today’s final release adds more than 5,600 new documents, including 2,100 documents from the Department of State. The Argentina Declassification Project resulted in a release of close to 50,000 pages of documents," it added.