Magazine article New Internationalist

Dirty Peace: Torture Is the Latest Field to Be Privatized in Argentina [Former Torturers Become Security Agents]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Dirty Peace: Torture Is the Latest Field to Be Privatized in Argentina [Former Torturers Become Security Agents]

Article excerpt

Torture is the latest field to be privatized in Argentina. Amaranta Wright reports on the continuing aftermath of a dictatorship's 'Dirty War'.

WHEN Argentina's military dictatorship fell 14 years ago, the kidnappers, torturers and contract killers nervously crept back into society and prepared themselves for hard times. They may have received official pardons for the 30,000 people they helped to 'disappear' in the Dirty War against 'left-wing subversives'. But the fear must still have hung over them that one day there would be a settling of accounts in the new democracy.

They need not have worried. Despite efforts to exclude them from public life, the men who carried out one of the worst atrocities in the history of Argentina have found a lucrative niche.

Noticias, Argentina's leading serious news weekly, revealed in a recent investigation that successful security firms are now being run by men who were once key figures in the Navy's 'intelligence unit'. The Navy was the dictatorship's most brutal arm: hundreds of live prisoners were thrown from its helicopters and planes.

The liberalized economy of Argentina has produced, as elsewhere, extremes of wealth and poverty accompanied by a growth in crime.

'The unstable climate has given these dictatorship strongmen the perfect opportunity to privatize their experience,' says Maria Caeati of the human-rights research group CELS. 'Security firms use ex-torturers because they have the experience to execute their tasks with more rigor and conviction than anyone.'

'Repressors have been able to set up companies and monopolize the market with all the money they made during the dictatorship,' says Laura Bonaparte, spokesperson for the Families of the Disappeared Commission. The organization estimates that $70 million was made from selling the property -- and even the children -- of the people they killed.

Former Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo first highlighted the issue in 1995 when he accused the country's leading entrepreneur, Alfredo Yabran, of hiring three ex-navy intelligence officers as security chiefs for his murky business empire, which includes Argentina's private postal service.

Roberto Naya, a graduate of the Navy School (ESMA), worked for Alfredo Yabran's conglomerate and made it one of the biggest clients for the services offered by two of his former colleagues. Victor Dinamarca, who co-ordinated 42 torture centres in ESMA, and Adolfo Donda Tigel, who has also been identified as a leading torturer, now operate companies providing a wide range of security services.

All three have denied their violent past and their links with each other. …

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