Argentina's dirty war

João Pina

2006 - 2013

In the 1970's Argentina went trough a very complex period in its political history. After the return of Juan Domingo Perón from exile in 1973 and his election to become the president of Argentina, following his death in 1974 and his widow Isabel Perón taking over the presidency leading to the military coup that created one of the most violent dictatorships in South America, during the "dirty war" period, in which anti-communist right wing military dictatorships go together to eliminate the political opposition in an secret military plan known as Operation Condor.

As a result of that time, an estimated 30.000 people were forcibly "disappeared" by the argentine armed forces and are today known as desaparecidos. For democracy to be re-instated in 1983, amnesties for the dictators and people involved in human rights violations were a mandatory condition. After that the country has gone trough several political and economical crisis, that has led the issue of human rights abuses and historical memory, relegated to a secondary position, despite thousands of families still not knowing what happened to their loved ones, and living with those memories and pains without closure.

In 2004, just after president Nestor Kirchner got elected, and the economical situation of the country increased tremendously after the 2002 country's default, finally the voices of the mothers of the disappeared, survivors of the dictatorship and other victims was listened and the Argentine state started to build up memory about its own dark times, were the armed forces were used to capture, torture and kill thousands of people for thinking differently.

The work presented here, is a long process of documenting the memory making process in this country, both from photographing victims and families of desaparecidos from this period, but also to show the work being done to recover bodies, identify them, and creating evidence to bring the responsible people to justice for horrendous human rights violations.

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  • The funeral of Horacio Bau a left-wing montonero militant from Trewlew in the argentine patagonia who disappeard in La Plata, Argentina in november 1977. His remains were found buried in a cementery in the city of La Plata as a "no name" in early 2007 and the burial cerimony took place in Trelew in November 2007.

    Horacio's disappearence happened during Operation Condor, a joint secret military plan aimed at eliminating political opponents using common resources, exchanging information, prisoners and torture techniques. This plan, which was carried out during the 1970's, resulted in the “extrajudicial executions” of at least 60,000 people.

  • An airplane used by the Argentinian military to drop left-wing militants alive to the La Plata river and Atlantic ocean during the military dictatorship is now used as an advertising object for a construction materials store in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

    Esteban Echeverria, Argentina, September 2011.

  • Campo de Mayo concentration camp trial, where the former president Reynaldo Bignone was sentenced to 25 years in jail for crimes against humanity.

    Florida, Argentina, April 2010.

  • One of the storage rooms of the EAAF (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in spanish), filed with boxes of recovered remains of political disappeared people.

    This remains are in storage to be identified and only when with a very strong evidence of identification is returned to the families of the disappeared.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina, February 2012.

  • The remains of two bodies of political disappeared lay in the lab of the EAAF (Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in spanish), in Buenos Aires to be studied and to try to match an identification.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 2012.

  • From left to right: Raúl Guglielminetti, Eugenio Pereyra Apestegui and Julio Simón accused of crimes against humanity during the military dictatorship in Argentina, at the ABO (atletico-banco-olimpo) trial, against former military men.
    In 2010 Mr. Guglielminetti was sentenced to 25 years in jail, and Mr. Apestegui and Mr. Simón were both sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes they committed during the military dictatorship in Argentina.
    Buenos Aires, December 2009

  • The torture room of "Olimpo" a former clandestine detention and torture center used by the federal police and military to interrogate and kill left-wing militants in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the military dictatorship 1975-1983.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 2007.

  • What is left from a pair of shoes found inside a mass grave being studied in the EAAF (Argentine team of forensic anthropologists) lab in Buenos Aires, to help identify the bones of "desaparecidos" or political disappeared by the miitary dictatorship that rulled Argentina from 1976-1983 and which 30.000 people have been said to disappear.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 2013.

  • Man underwear found inside a mass grave being studied in the EAAF (Argentine team of forensic anthropologists) lab in Buenos Aires, to help identify the bones of "desaparecidos" or political disappeared by the miitary dictatorship that rulled Argentina from 1976-1983 and which 30.000 people have been said to disappear.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 2013.

  • Former military men, hide their faces to the photographer during a session of their trial in which they are being accused by the Argentine state of crimes against the Humanity in the last dictatorship from 1976-1983.

    Bahia Blanca, Argentina, February 2012.

  • Maria Santucho, the daughter of the Argentine militant Oscar Santucho, who was disappeard in 1976 in Argentina by the military.

    Ms Santucho portraied in the Malecon in Havana, was herself arrested and forced into exile in 1976. She lives in Cuba since then.

    Havana, Cuba, December 2006.

  • Mirta Clara, an former argentine political prisoner. Ms Clara was arrested with her husband in November 1975 for being part of the montoneros political group. While in costody she was tortured while pregnant of her second son, whom today suffers from mental problems.

    Her husband was executed in what is known as the Margarita Belen massacre and she spent 8 years in jail, being released only with close to the first democratic elections in 1983.

    Today she lives and works as a human rights advocate and psychologist in Buenos Aires.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 2012.

  • Friends and families of the Argentinian military men that are currently being trialed for human rights abuses, protest in favor of their release on october 5th 2012, the day marking the fallen soldiers combating the "subversive" movements.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 2012.

  • Colonel Hugo Delme (white shirt) being transported from jail to the court house by prison guards, in Bahia Blanca. Mr. Delme is a retired army colonel accused of being involved in crimes against humanity involving the torture and disappearance of left-wing militants during the last Argentine dictatorship which lasted from 1976 to1983. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 2012.
    Bahia Blanca, Argentina, February 2012.