Peter D’Errico Explains the Roots of Rodolfo Walsh’s “Operation Massacre”

August 13, 2013

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 10.21.10 AMIn an August 7 article for Indian Country Today Media Network, Peter D’Errico calls Operation Massacre  “a work of history and a call to conscience.” “It is a warning,” he says, “and even a prophecy of what happens when government cuts itself off from human rights and embarks on an effort to remake society in the name of some “higher” purpose, whether that is right or left, religious or secular.”

D’Errico walks us through the history that provided for Walsh’s book, beginning with the overthrow of the elected government of Juan Peron in Argentina, which led to dictatorship and “dirty war” throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s. Following the overthrow, “anyone associated with socialism or Peronism was a target for kidnapping, torture, and “disappearance.”" 

In 1956, Peronists in the Army and civilians put together an uprising against the dictatorship, but were crushed within 24 hours. Within that day, the police force rolled out a secret plan to kidnap and murder a group of men that were suspected of involvement in this uprising. The operation was flawed, and half of the intended victims got away.

This is where Rodolfo Walsh, Argentinean crime fiction writer, came in.

Walsh heard about the operation some months later, and began a detailed investigation that would become Operation Massacre, and last for the remainder of his life. On March 24, 1977, Walsh mailed an “Open Letter from a Writer to the Military Junta.” The very next day he was kidnapped on the street, and never seen again.

D’Errico goes on to explain that the Argentine dictator, Jorge Videla, ultimately answered for his reign of terror when an elected government took over in1983, and prosecutions began for Videla and others’ crimes against humanity. Videla was sentenced to life in prison, and also convicted in 2012 of kidnapping babies from mothers who had “disappeared.” The babies were given to members of the military to raise, a practice disturbingly similar to government-sanctioned stealing of American Indian children during the colonization of America. Henry Pratt founded the first Indian boarding school, with the goal of removing Indian children from their homes and raising them to abandon their native ways. Stealing babies from Indian families is still going on in the United States under the aegis of state “social service” systems. D’Errico points out that the “Argentine dictatorship’s name for its overall agenda, “Process of National Reorganization,” echoes the U.S. “Indian Reorganization Act.” In each instance, the target is a way of life, a way of being in the world.”

Jorge Videla died in prison in May 2013. Operation Massacre will be available from Seven Stories Press in September.


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