Friday, September 18, 2020

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 03-12-2017 18:02

ESMA: Questions about complicity with human rights violations

A trio of people in some way related to the former Navy Mechanics School - Francisco José Piñón, Father Rafael Braun and Marta Vásquez - and the events involving them pose questions for the Universidad del Salvador (USAL).

On October 21, 2016, Francisco José Piñón was named member of the National Commission for University Evaluation and Accreditation (CONEAU), by Presidential Decree 1118/2016. Moreover, last October 8, Father Rafael Braun passed away. Finally, on November 18, Marta Vásquez, the president of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo – Founding Line died.

The three of them were in one way or another related to the atrocities committed during the last dictatorship in the Navy Mechanics School, the notorious ESMA. Here are the facts:

As then-president of Universidad del Salvador (USAL), Piñón granted an Honorary Degree to Emilio Eduardo Massera, on November 25, 1977. In his acceptance speech he said: “I’d like to thank the Navy for having been granted this important honour by the USAL authorities. I’ve accepted it exclusively assured that it’s not personal but a homage to the force I’m honoured to command.”

That explains why in the 1970s, when Jesuit Rafael Braun – uncle of the current Cabinet Minister Marcos Peña - taught Theology at the USAL and directed Criterio magazine, he highlighted Jorge Rafael Videla’s “moral authority” and “frequently lauded the military dictatorship, especially its economic policies.” (See: Emilio F. Mignone. Witness to the truth: the complicity of Church and dictatorship in Argentina, 1976-1983. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1988).

Carla Torres, the former member of the USAL Social Sciences Student Center has posed an interesting question: why has the USAL been so elusive to the quest for redress of this honorary degree? 

Neither has it paid institutional tribute to the 25 alumni and graduates who were detained-disappeared, in spite of Student Center’s efforts for vindication: Jorge Alberto Money, Pablo Lepiscopo, Cristina Turbay de Casariego, Mónica Pites, Ricardo Emilio Riobó, José Luis Casariego, Graciela Gonzalez Marelli de Duarte, Roberto Carri,  Esperanza de Cacabelos de Salcedo, Beatriz Perosio, Susana Mujica,  Cristina Fernández de Colomer, Juan Carlos Cuestas Anzorena, Ricardo Néstor Tajes García, Adolfo Nelson Fontanella, Pablo Basilio y Carlos Adolfo Surraco Britos, Gustavo Gaona, Laura Susana Di Domenico, Nélida Cattoni, María del Carmen Sabino Vidal, Carlos Raúl Pargas Fleitas, María Marta Vásquez, Mónica María Candelaria Mignone (For more information, see:

Finally, we also know that Marta Vásquez’s daughter, María Marta Vásquez de Lugones – who was pregnant at the time - was detained-disappeared on May 14, 1976 and taken to the ESMA, where she gave birth and was attended by Jorge Luis Magnacco, who was one of those charged in last week’s trial.

As I mentioned in my November 18 letter in the Buenos Aires Times, I studied at the USAL from 1972 to 1978, so, in one way or another, I’ve gotten to know all of the aforementioned. 

It’s very sad to realise that my alma mater was an accomplice of the crimes committed in the ESMA.

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Ildefonso Thomsen

Ildefonso Thomsen


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