Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Race-Hate Groups Find Virtual Haven in Argentina ; Lax Laws and Cheap Internet Access Have Helped Far-Right Groups Thrive

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Race-Hate Groups Find Virtual Haven in Argentina ; Lax Laws and Cheap Internet Access Have Helped Far-Right Groups Thrive

Article excerpt

Argentina has emerged as the location of choice for websites set up by the world's ultranationalist and neo-Nazi political groups.

In recent years, race-hate groups in Europe and in other Latin American countries have come under increasing pressure to curtail their online activities. Authorities have dismantled some extremist sites, or pressured web-hosting companies to close sites temporarily for posting offensive or illegal content.

Neo-Nazi groups experience few such problems in Argentina.

Aided by inexpensive high-speed Internet access and an outdated antidiscrimination law, race-hate groups from all over the Spanish- speaking world are making Argentina their virtual home base.

1990s boom

"The late 1990s saw the re-birth of neo-Nazi groups in Argentina, both in the real world and on the Internet," says Sergio Widder, Latin America representative for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization. "The ultraright in Argentina is using the Internet to help create a neo-Nazi network in Latin America." According to the Wiesenthal Center, the number of sites worldwide it deems "problematic" has grown to 3,000 today from one in 1995. Specific numbers for Argentina were unavailable.

The highest-profile site in Argentina is City of Freedom of Opinion, run by the neo-Nazi New Triumph Party (PNT). Its leader, Alejandro Biondini, appears at public meetings in SS-style uniforms, giving the Nazi salute. Set up as a modest online newspaper in 1997, the site has since mushroomed into a much-visited portal connecting more than 300 extreme right-wing groups in Europe and Latin America.

The site, in Spanish and other languages, boasts a news agency and a bulletin board for neo-Nazis. The PNT offers free e-mail and web-hosting services for race-hate groups around the world. On the site, the PNT says it specifically offers hosting facilities to extremist groups whose websites have been prohibited or whose activities have been curtailed in other jurisdictions.

The portal allowed neo-Nazi groups from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay to plan a congress in April 2000, to be held in Chile on the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday. The Chilean authorities eventually banned the meeting.

Numerous other Argentine race-hate and ultra-nationalist sites provide a regular channel of contact for extremists in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, and Europe. Many glorify Germany's Nazi Party and Italy's fascism, championing the country's European roots, and lashing out against drug addicts, Marxists, Jews, and homosexuals.

One site, True Peace, set up by Carlos Torlaschi, president of the Group of Retired Admirals of Argentina, celebrates the military and police officers who killed some 30,000 Argentine citizens during Argentina's 1976-83 "dirty war" against suspected leftists. …

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