Patsy George spent Human Rights Day in Argentina. The following letter describes Patsy’s experience and what she learned there.
Thanks to my dear friend and host, Nora Patrich, a courageous and committed Human Rights Activist now living in Argentina, I recently found myself in the middle of over 250 thousand people carrying banners, shouting slogans, dancing to the beat of hundreds of drums lined up along more than 10 streets leading to the Plaza De Mayo in the centre of Buenos Aires. The spectacular show of commitment to democracy and human rights in a land which has known brutality and violations in itself was a sign of hope and human triumph on UN International Human Rights Day 2012.
From the passion expressed, it was obvious that many of them have experienced or known a member of the family or neighbourhood who experienced torture, violation and loss and have taken the vow that it will never happen again. Nunca Mas, as they say here and the title of the first book describing the atrocities under the military rule. So the celebrations focused on the men and women who brought them democracy and the current President Christina Fernandez de Kercherner who calls on them to unite and organize for social solidarity and
justice is understandable.
The history of abuse in the recent past is not to be forgotten when the military saw to it that political opponents and social activists were arrested , tortured and kept in concentration camps. Hundreds of them, including the sister-in-law of my friend Nora and two French nuns, were sedated and taken on planes and dropped off in the waters from military planes. Each of these flights were blessed by the church officials who supported the military in those days. Thousands of political activists, academics, union leaders and student leaders went underground or went into exile for many years. Nora took refuge
in Canada and contributed to the human rights fied in our own country while there.
The inhumanity suffered by the people of Argentina was brought home to all of us outside this country through the faces of women, mothers and grandmothers, of those who disappeared. These women took to the streets every day and covering their heads in white showing up at the Plaza De Mayo once a week in front of the Pink Palace the official home of the President.demanding to know what happened to their children. Several years later and thousands of voices united, here we are at the same Plaza to listen to the voice of the President of the Nation.
The long line of marchers carrying banners with the faces and slogans of various former Presidents and political leaders including Che and Evita have now lived under democracy for 29 years. President Christina Kerchener has been able to bring many changes including a strong stand against the International Monetary Fund (IMF), bringing fair wages to the workers, right to choose policies, housing subsidies which are seeing unprecedented construction of new homes and renovations, free education and many programmes to deal with poverty and equality of women and men. This in turn has created a larger middle class who is seeking more equality and fairness which is being resisted by the wealthy and the powerful especially in the media who have always controlled the economy. For instance, her new law which dismantles the monopoly of the media in one corporation is being challenged in the courts.
President Christina acknowledged in her speech at the rally celebrating the human rights that their nation’s journey is still in progress. It was the first time in my life when I witnessed the President of any country standing with the people celebrating the International Human Rights day I thank my friend, Nora Patrich for making it possible for me to experience the joyful memories of shared struggles across the world for dignity and justice and commitment to
continue to work for equality in al our homes, communities and around the world. Happy Human Rights Day from Buenos Aires.