Wednesday, September 27, 2006

At the devil's table

Many years ago, when I was a young and impressionable journalist, my editor at The Sydney Morning Herald sent me to Argentina to write a series of articles on the changes that were then taking place in that beautiful but often-tragic country.

The military had just withdrawn from office following the Falklands debacle and Raul Alfonsin had been elected president of the new, democratic Argentina.

One of the stories I was keen to cover for the series involved a group of absolutely courageous women known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, for I had heard and read much about their cause.

And so, as soon as I landed in Buenos Aires, I sought an interview with their leader, Hebe de Bonafini. By then, de Bonafini had become something of a minor media celebrity and I was told she was too busy to meet me this time. No worries, I said. Instead, I met some of the other mothers in their pokey office, and listened to their amazing and tearful stories, trying hard not to shed a few tears myself.

Imagine my surprise (and disappointment) some year later when I came across a photograph of de Bonafini, still wearing the distinctive white scarf on her head, hugging Fidel Castro – the first of many.

Imagine my disgust (and dismay) when I heard de Bonafini describe the dictator as a great and visionary human being - and attack those who oppose the repressive regime from within as nothing but gusanos, using that most deliberate and malicious of Castroist terms.

How could a woman who fought so hard against the military dictators in Argentina now praise another, equally-despotic dictator, I wondered? How can this woman side with Castro, the very man that openly and shamelessly supported the military junta in Buenos Aires for years. The same junta responsible for so much of de Bonafini's personal pain?

How could she?

Then the other day I read a piece in El Nuevo Herald by the always-readable Gina Montaner in which she described de Bonafini in passing as “malvada”, which translated as something close to evil.

Ms Montaner is right - the description fits.


Blogger El Gusano said...

years ago i worked for an oil company in NY. an argentine representing one of the country's oil companies came to visit. (appointed by alfonsin).Since I spoke spanish I was the designated tourguide. I learned that the argentine loved Castro and the revolution. He was so puzzled that i would want to leave. his take was that i was form the former ruling class. but no, (that would have been some huge oligarchy!)i was just a proud "gusano"

10:30 pm  

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