Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama Visit to Argentina Stirs Up 'Dirty War' Past

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama Visit to Argentina Stirs Up 'Dirty War' Past

Article excerpt

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina * When President Barack Obama's state visit to Buenos Aires was announced early this year, Argentina's new president cast it as a sign that the South American nation was on a U.S.-backed path to investment and modernization that would help it conquer its economic problems.

But in the weeks leading up to Obama's Wednesday arrival, the country's attention hasn't been on the future, but rather on painful chapters in Argentina's past and unanswered questions about the United States' relationship with one of the most repressive military dictatorships in Latin American history.

The catalyst has largely been the timing: Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of the military coup.

"The dictatorship is still very much on the table" in Argentine society, said Roberto Bacman, director of the Center for Public Opinion Studies, a South American research firm. "This visit is going to bring out some dark sides of the past."

Some groups have promised protests in Buenos Aires and Bariloche, a tourist city in southern Argentina where Obama will spend part of Thursday. They argue that during the Cold War, the United States backed dictatorships, including Argentina's, and so the presence of an American leader is disrespectful to families of the thousands who died or were disappeared.

Even without the visit, memories of military rule between 1976 and 1983 haunt the country, affecting political ideology and feeding debates about whether the country should continue to spend millions of dollars every year prosecuting former dirty war perpetrators and searching for the remains of the missing. …

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