President Barack Obama’s visit to Argentina has been dogged by the role of the United States in Argentina’s military coup, an association that has been exacerbated by the fact that his arrival coincidences with the overthrow’s 40th anniversary — March 24.
Tensions about Barack’s visit have caused protests in some parts of the city, including one where American flags were burned while attendees chanted, “Get out, Obama!” When those same symbolic tapestries were flown in Buenos Aires’ central plaza ahead of Barack’s arrival, social media exploded in indignation. It’s safe to say that Argentina’s military coup has “neither been forgiven, nor forgotten,” as banners put up all across the country expressed on Thursday.
— La Izquierda Diario (@izquierdadiario) March 22, 2016
Obama himself seemed to take note of this atmosphere when he spoke at the Parque de la Memoria, a memorial park for victims of the military government established following Argentina’s coup. There, Barack criticized the foreign policy of Henry Kissinger and other U.S. forces in the ’70s — Americans who played a direct role in supporting bloody military coups all across Latin American. You can watch his full speech in English below.
In his speech, Obama was clear to uplift the journalists, human rights activists, and families who have sought justice for the murders of their loved ones at the hand of military government who executed the coup. Barack said that it was these people who drove efforts to heal Argentina after the end of the junta that left an estimated 30,000 dead.
“Your relentlessness and determination has made a difference, and driven Argentina’s remarkable efforts to hold responsible those who perpetrated these crimes. You’re the ones who ensure the past is remembered and the promise of ‘Nunca Más’ (Never Again) is finally fulfilled.”
More specifically, Barack admitted that U.S. foreign policy was partially responsible for how protracted and deadly the aftermath of Argentina’s coup was. Speaking not just of Argentina, Obama condemned any action of the U.S. government that did not hold human rights as a priority.
“There has been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days. The US, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine on its own policies and its own past. Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for, when we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights. And that was the case here.”
It’s unlikely that this action will fully heal the bad blood between Argentinians and the United States. Several key figures were uncomfortable with the very idea of Barack making an appearance in Parque de la Memoria. Obama’s original agenda for the trip had to be rearranged, with a trip to Patagonian town Bariloche, to avoid him being in the capital on the coup’s 40th anniversary.
Ahead of Obama’s visit to Argentina, the White House announced that they would be releasing a trove of newly declassified documents relating to the U.S. involvement in the military coup. A large number of such files were already released in 2002. An especially damning amount of evidence has been declassified about American interference in neighboring country Chile’s own dictatorship.
What did you think of Barack Obama’s apology for U.S. involvement in Argentina’s military coup?
[Images via Chip Somodevilla and Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]