My View on Human Rights in The Buenos Aires Herald (2003 – 2013)

Saturday May 25, 2013


On Friday, May 10, I read on the Web that there was no news as to the whereabouts of Nicolás Biedma. His wife, Carla Rutila Artés had already denounced his disappearance to the authorities and the judiciary. What first crossed my mind is that, in such cases, time is crucial, as shown by two incidents in 2006. Jorge Julio López disappeared on September 18. His family did not immediately denounce his disappearance based on the hope that his fragile memory might have been the cause of his delay in returning home. On the other hand, Luis Gerez, abducted on December 27, was found two days later, with signs of having been tortured. In this latter case, there was immediate and intense intervention of both national and Buenos Aires province authorities.

What links these three cases? Biedma’s wife, Carla Rutila Artés, testified in court against Eduardo Alfredo Ruffo — the man who took her as war booty from Automotores Orletti, the concentration camp where her mother was tortured and disappeared. López was the key witness in the trial of Miguel Ángel Etchecolatz. Gerez testified against Luis Patti. In other words, all those accused were connected to crimes committed during the military dictatorship.

So I phoned Danilo Albín, scriptwriter of the Spanish documentary ¿Y si tú sos vos? to inquire whether Nicolás Biedma could have left home for personal reasons. His answer was inconclusive. That’s why I hurried to write to the Herald (May 11). “This great little newspaper” (Bob Cox dixit) has saved lives before. Spanish-born María Consuelo Castaño Blanco and her three daughters are a living example (see: Michael Soltys, “Long night’s journey into day,” April 26).

But when I went to pick up my paper at the newsstand on Saturday morning, Nicolás Biedma had already returned home, safe and sound. Why did he go missing for two days? I imagine that the screening of the documentary referred to above must have deeply affected him. Nevertheless, I’d like to thank the Herald for publishing my letter. I’m glad I was wrong.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Ed. This letter was sent to us almost two weeks ago but was not published last Saturday in order to run Mempo Giardinelli’s column on the death of Jorge Videla.

Saturday, May 11, 2013 |

Your View


Nicolás Biedma, 39, has been missing since Wednesday morning. On Tuesday evening I had met both him and his wife — Carla Rutila Artés — at the screening of the 54-minute Spanish documentary ¿Y si tú sos vos?, the first regarding the search in Europe for the Argentine children kidnapped by the military dictatorship. Carla is the first grandchild recovered by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and shares with Nicolás the tragic fate of having parents who were kidnapped, taken to Automotores Orletti , tortured and disappeared.

All of us who viewed this hour of horror were deeply moved by the tragedy undergone by these youngsters, abducted from their parents and given in adoption to repressors. They were mistreated and endured years of suffering until recovering their true identity.

This documentary has a clear objective: to contribute in the search of those Argentine children of the disappeared who were kidnapped and nowadays live in Spain without knowing their true identity. The fact that Nicolás has gone missing since the morning after its first screening in Buenos Aires is disquieting and leaves a clear message: those who participated in the Plan Cóndor and are now on trial don’t like it.

I’d just like them to know that national Deputy María Inés Pilatti Vergara (Victory Front-Chaco) has just presented a resolution in the Lower House declaring this documentary of parliamentary interest. Moreover, the authors will dub this movie into English so that it may reach wider audiences around the world, especially in Europe.
Meanwhile, we must make sure that the general public be made aware both of this documentary and, above all, of Nicolas’s disappearance. Both are interconnected. The monsters are still among us.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Your View


I was deeply moved by Michael Soltys’ review (April 26) on Maria Consuelo Castaño Blanco’s “Rapsodia para no olvidarte” (Editorial Dunken). I had the opportunity to comment this to his wife, who visited the Xunta de Galicia stand at the Book Fair that same evening. Robert Cox introduced me to María Consuelo last year and gave me a copy of her first book, “Más que humanos” (1988). He also insisted that this survivor of the Argentine Holocaust publish this second book, expanding on her European roots (her parents were exiles from the Spanish Civil War), as well as the tragic fate of those who never came back from the dungeons. What Mr. Soltys has done, quite remarkably, is to connect both books, enlightening readers into María Consuelo’s innermost feelings. The title chosen for this book review is perfect. Eugene O’Neill has been turned on his head: it´s a long journey from night into day.

Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Your View


Robert Cox and Horacio Verbitsky have only one thing in common: they’re journalists. What makes the former stand out from the latter is his ethical behaviour. Cox has just admitted he was wrong by not taking into account Benedict XVI’s compulsory membership in the Hitler Youth. Verbitsky has never apologized for erroneous information written in his regular Sunday Página/12 column. On November 17, 2012 my letter titled “Setting the record straight” bears testimony to this fact.

Nevertheless, on Thursday, March 21, 2013, Verbitsky, under the title “Pasado pisado,” refers explicitly to the testimony of Jesuit Fathers Orlando Yorio and Francisco Yalics with reference to their detention and the role played by now Pope Francis on their behalf. Is he wrong again?

I’m not trying to besmirch the new pope. I just want to know the truth.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Your View


“Non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust are honoured at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ and trees are planted with their names on a plaque. Morton Rosenthal, who died on January 12 following a stroke, at the age of 81, deserves to be honoured as doubly righteous. He saved Jews and non-Jews during the Argentine holocaust…”. This was written by Robert Cox (Herald, January 20). Nobody else even noticed the death of this American Rabbi.

Rosenthal was director of the Latin American Affairs Department of B’Nai Brith’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) between 1966 and 1993. Thanks to de-classified US State Department documents, we can learn how tenacious his efforts in favour of those detained-disappeared were during the military dictatorship.

Unfortunately, the ADL is once again setting its eyes on our country, this time, regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Iran. On February 13, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

“Any doubt about Iran’s real intentions in entering into the MOU were completely dispelled by the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran in a statement on February 12.

“The spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said that “the interrogation of some of the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran in line with the AMIA care are inaccurate,” and that it is “no longer necessary to pursue this issue…Iran and Argentina themselves will pursue this issue by forming a committee by way of the agreement.”

“The MOU, which is now being considered by Argentina’s Congress for approval, is an affront to the memory of those citizens of Argentina who lost their lives and were injured by the barbarous act of terrorism in Argentina’s capital city. This will only add to the suffering and pain of the survivors and families.

“The statements by Iran leave no doubt that the regime does not intend to allow this agreement to result in a fair process. We respectfully urge the Argentine Congress to act in the interest of the victims, their families and the people of Argentina by opposing the approval of the MOU”.

Is Argentina honouring Rabbi Rosenthal’s work?

Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, February 16, 2013 |

Your View


In your February 10 editorial “MP = More Pay,” you state that “since the 2011 landslide re-electing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Congress has become a virtual rubberstamp with infrequent sessions and sketchy committee work.” By just checking the Congressional Webpage, it’s clear that you’re wrong.

Let’s focus on the Lower House. In 2012 there were 21 sessions, the last on December 19. You must remember that, according to our National Constitution, ordinary sessions of Congress are from March 1 to November 30. In other words, there was an average of two sessions per month. Moreover, Congress worked overtime, up to one week before Christmas.

But let’s compare 2012 with previous years. These are the number of sessions during the past five years: 2011 (10), 2010 (16), 2009 (12), 2008 and 2007 (25). In other words, in 2012 Congress duplicated work done the previous year.

Congressional productivity, i.e. laws sanctioned, is also on the rise: In 2012 (105) and in 2011 (79). Of those 105 bills presented before Congress last year, only 45 were the initiative of the Executive Branch, 31 of National Deputies and 29 of Senators. That’s to say, 42.86% correspond to the Executive Branch, 29.52% to National Deputies, and 27.62% to the Senate.

Congress is no rubberstamp. Senators and deputies outperform the Executive Branch in initiatives presented. They’ve also substantially increased the number of sessions. To label as “sketchy” the work in Congressional committees is to downplay the increase in productivity mentioned above.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, January 19, 2013 |

Your View


Pablo Bardin questions both the beliefs of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) followers which “muddles the experience of the Shen Yun show” — as well as the persecution they suffer in the People’s Republic of China (Herald, December 21). He considers it an “extremely simplistic ‘theology’” but admits “that they are persecuted for they are perceived as enemies of the state”. However, he remarks that in his May 2012 visit to China he was able to perceive tolerance of other religious beliefs since “freedom of cult is nowadays a far cry from the horrible situation at the time of the Cultural Revolution”.

To get a more accurate picture of what’s really going on, readers should access the US State Department’s 2011 report on international religious freedom presented on July 30. It says that religious freedom has “declined markedly” in China.

I really don’t care if the Chinese Cultural Revolution was worse. What’s going on now is unacceptable. The fact that Falun Dafa practitioners are in the millions makes me respect their beliefs, something Pablo Bardin fails to do.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, December 22, 2012 |

Your View


When referring to the kidnap and forced prostitution of Marita Verón, the Herald has repeatedly used the term “white slavery.” This terminology was common in the final stages of the 19th century to emphasize the fact that European women were taken away for sexual exploitation to other countries in the continent, Asia and Africa. Why? Because they were only white women. In other words, it originates in a period where “black slavery” was accepted by society and the state.

Nowadays, the appropriate terminology is “trafficking in persons” as referred to in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol) adopted by the United Nations in Palermo, Italy in 2000.

The Protocol is the first global, legally binding instrument on trafficking in over half a century and the only one that sets out an agreed definition of trafficking in persons. The purpose of the Protocol is to facilitate convergence in national co-operation in investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons. An additional objective of the Protocol is to protect and assist the victims of trafficking in persons with full respect for their human rights.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Ed. Rather than being coterminous, the phrase “white slavery” was coined subsequent to “black slavery” — with the possible exception of Brazil all countries had abolished slavery some time before this term was introduced. As well as being archaic, the phrase seems to offend the politically correct but at least two arguments can be made in its favour — a) it is more specific than “trafficking in persons” which also includes the “snakeheads” (or shouldn’t we be using that term either?) and other such illegal migration rackets; b) it evokes a period of local history which perhaps should not be forgotten. At the very least it could serve as a synonym.

Sunday, December 16, 2012 |

Your View


Last January, Lorena Martins filed a criminal complaint against her father Raúl Martins, accusing him of luring Argentine women and girls to Cancún (Mexico) and then forcing them into prostitution. She stated he has accomplices in the Argentine police and intelligence services. What happened? The Federal Appeals Court rejected the case, in spite of all the evidence provided.

On December 11, a Tucumán court handed down a unanimous verdict acquitting 13 defendants on all charges in the case regarding the kidnap and forced prostitution of Marita Verón.

Is the judiciary solely to blame? Surely not. Human trafficking is a very lucrative business. The military dictatorship had no respect for the lives of those considered dissidents. We should not allow democratic Argentina to condone the sale of human beings for prostitution or forced labour.

Susana Trimarco, Marita Verón’s mother, should not stand alone against impunity.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, December 1, 2012 |

Your View


On November 12 this year, Robert Cox was photographed with María Consuelo Castaño Blanco and her three daughters, at the Spanish Cultural Centre in Recoleta. What’s the big deal? Thirty-three years ago more precisely, on Sunday, September 16, 1979 the picture of this Spanish citizen and her three siblings was splashed on the front page of the Buenos Aires Herald. Two days earlier a bunch of armed thugs had ransacked their home and whisked them away in unmarked cars. María Consuelo’s father immediately sought the help of Robert Cox, who didn’t hesitate in having their story told for several consecutive days on the front page of this “great little newspaper.”

It’s thanks to this publicity and the forceful intervention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights then visiting Buenos Aires that the three young girls were handed over to their grandparents. María Consuelo wasn’t that lucky: not only was her husband detained-disappeared, but she had to face a kangaroo court on trumped-up charges and endure four years of detention. But, thanks to this brave editor of the Herald, her life was spared.

María Consuelo believes that Cox and family had to flee Argentina a short time after due to his forceful intervention on behalf of her family.

Sure enough, thanks to the insistence of Robert Cox, María Consuelo has recently published a full account of her family’s ordeal: Rapsodia para no olvidarte: Relatos sobre los españoles desaparecidos en Argentina (1976-1983). Buenos Aires, Editorial Dunken, 204 pages.

Robert Cox did more than his job. He saved lives.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, November 17, 2012 |

Your View


Marcelo García is right: journalists can be “thankful there’s very real accountability on behalf of the public for them” (Herald, November 3). Magdalena Ruíz Guiñazú isn’t the only prestigious journalist who, having made a mistake, hasn’t had the honesty to admit it, let alone apologize. Such is also the case of Horacio Verbitsky, who — as Robert Cox pinpoints (Herald, June 10) — “tells some of the truth some of the time.”

On December 9, 2007, May 2, 2011 and October 30, 2011 Verbitsky wrote in Página/12 that one of former president Néstor Kirchner’s first measures in office was to request from Congress the ratification of the International Convention on the Non-Applicability of the Statute of Limitations for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. This is simply not true.

This International Convention had become Law 24584 on November 1, 1995. What President Kirchner did was (via Decree 579/2003 of August 8, 2003) deposit the instrument of ratification before the United Nations secretary-general.

Who took the initiative in presenting this convention before Congress? What circumstances favoured its legislative approval? Why did the Executive Branch take eight years to complete the legal procedures of ratification?

In 1994 two events shook both national and international public opinion. On the one hand, the declarations of former SS Captain Erich Priebke in Bariloche to ABC TV’s Sam Donaldson, admitting to his participation in the massacre of 335 civilians in Rome, Italy. On the other, the July 18 terrorist attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre. This prompted president Menem to promise the Argentine Jewish leadership he would send this Convention for congressional approval.

At that time I was advisor to the Lower House Human Rights Committee chairman, then national deputy Claudio Mendoza (Peronist¬Chaco). I suggested he present a bill in Congress ratifying the Convention, which he did, immediately receiving bipartisan support. It passed the House in 1994 and the Senate in 1995. Nevertheless, Menem got cold feet. Why? Because of the fear within the Armed Forces that ratifying this Convention would open the Pandora’s box of trials frozen due to the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws.

Néstor Kirchner finished off the job begun by Congress eight years earlier.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, November 3, 2012 |

Your View


On October 22, Argentina submitted itself in Geneva to its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) Working Group. Our country was represented by a 14-member delegation headed by Juan Martín Fresneda, the State Secretary for Human Rights, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. There were 58 participants — 26 HRC members and 32 observers.

Positive achievements were underlined, but also issues and questions were raised. States participating in the dialogue posed a series of recommendations to Argentina. These pertained to the following issues, among others: a national mechanism for the prevention of torture in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT); human rights education for law enforcement personnel with a focus on the prevention of torture; investigations into the alleged cases of torture perpetrated by law enforcement personnel; conditions of prisons and detention facilities, including instances of overcrowding and a review of the prison system; steps to address gender-based violence, and access to justice for victims of domestic violence; efforts to address human-trafficking, including through education and awareness campaigns and services to victims; ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning communications; domestic measures pertaining to persons with disabilities; efforts to reduce maternal mortality in line with Millennium Development Goals; the participation of indigenous people in public life and land rights for indigenous communities; legislative measures with regard to access to information; measures to further protect journalists. These recommendations will be examined by Argentina, which will provide responses in due time but no later than the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council in March, 2013.

On October 23, Página/12 informed: “Argentina received a positive appraisal from the UN on human rights: Progress with concrete results” while Clarín highlighted: “The UN alerts on obstacles to freedom of expression in Argentina”. Marcelo García is right (Herald, October 27): “There was next to no point of contact between the stories.”


Ildefonso Thomsen

Saturday, October 13, 2012 |

Your View


I’d like to thank Spanish Ambassador Román Oyarzún for his invitation to attend a ceremony at his Embassy (on October 5th) in honour of all Spaniards disappeared in Argentina during the last military dictatorship. Human rights have no political boundaries. Many Spaniards, escaping from the Spanish Civil War, had to endure the disappearance of their loved ones in our country. It’s truly comforting to witness that a representative of a conservative government in Spain stands up for the basic human rights common to all human beings.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 29, 2012 |

Your View


I agree with Robert Cox: abusive or militant journalism “weakens the role of the Fourth Estate in defending democracy” (Herald, September 18). The cover of Noticias magazine depicting President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in a moment of sexual ecstasy is utterly disgusting.

It’s unfortunate that there’s been no apology forthcoming from Editorial Perfil; only a blank magazine cover and victimization. Nevertheless, I should point out that there’s one voice in the desert. Andrew Graham-Yooll published the letter in which I express my support of Cox’s viewpoint in last Saturday’s Perfil newspaper. Although he expresses his own negative viewpoint on the magazine cover, he disagrees with his former boss and friend, labelling Cox’s decision to personally boycott the magazine as “theatrical and unnecessary”.

I believe he hasn’t taken into consideration the following aspects: On April 10, 2011, Cox’s column was entitled: “The conundrum of press freedom”; its subtitle: “No one would deny there is freedom of expression in Argentina today.” He states: “In my view only Noticias and Perfil are reasonably fair, in their fashion, when presenting the news”. Moreover, on September 9 earlier this month, the same weekend of the offensive magazine cover, Cox came out in defence of Jorge Fontevecchia, CEO of Editorial Perfil, in an article entitled “Under the boot of a defamation campaign.”

In last Saturday’s column “Politics and the Press”, Marcelo J. García stated: “Freedom of expression, as any other freedom, comes with a slice of responsibility”. It seems that at Editorial Perfil they haven’t received the message.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Your View


On September 7, the US State Department informed it had granted immunity to Mexican ex-President Ernesto Zedillo for actions carried out during his period in office. This means that the case presented in court against him by relatives of victims of the “Acteal Massacre” (December 24, 1997) cannot be pursued.

As I mentioned previously (Your View, September 15), the United States has recently refused to extradite Bolivian ex-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to face charges for crimes against humanity.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama isn’t Jimmy Carter. We should all read “The Downfall of Human Rights” (NEWSWEEK, February 18, 2010) to see it like it is. The Nobel Peace Prize has gone down the drain.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Your View


The United States and Britain have something in common in the realm of human rights: a double standard when it comes to who should be extradited for crimes committed elsewhere. I’ve already mentioned Britain regarding Augusto Pinochet vis-à-vis Julian Assange. Now the US joins the club. Just read the extensive analysis made by Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian (September 9): “America’s refusal to extradite Bolivia’s ex-president to face genocide charges”.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Your View


British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in his latest statement regarding Julian Assange, didn’t repeat his warning to Ecuador last month that Britain could invoke the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 to arrest Assange inside the embassy. That had only fuelled international indignation.

Now, instead of a lion, he’s trying to portray a pussy-cat. On September 3 he said: “I have been consistently clear that we are not threatening the embassy of Ecuador.” Is it friendly to state Britain’s willingness to override international law?

The foreign secretary said: “Both the United Kingdom and Sweden are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights and the British government has complete confidence in the independence and fairness of the Swedish judicial system. As we have discussed with the government of Ecuador, the United Kingdom and Sweden robustly implement and adhere to the highest standards of human rights protection.”

Does the same standard apply to Spain? Why wasn’t it applied to Baltasar Garzón’s international warrant for the arrest of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet?

Finally, does the US abide by high human rights standards? Just read the following article in The New York Times (March 11, 2011): “Obama defends detention conditions for soldier accused in WikiLeaks case.” Have we all forgotten Guantánamo?


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Your View


Britain says it has a legal obligation to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden. London’s The Guardian editorializes (August 16) that refugee protection does not apply to the WikiLeaks founder under the United Nations Convention. It misses the point: Ecuador has granted him asylum, not refugee status. At least Guardian columnist Matthew Happold got it right (June 20).

Moreover, former British diplomat Oliver Miles has pointed out in the London Review of Books that Britain is anxious to avoid setting the precedent of allowing Assange to remain as a fugitive within the Ecuadorian embassy in defiance of a European arrest warrant. He seems to have a short memory.

On 10 October, 1998, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón issued an international warrant for the arrest of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet for the alleged deaths and torture of Spanish citizens. The Chilean Truth Commission (1990-91) report was the basis for the warrant, marking an unprecedented use of universal jurisdiction to attempt to try a former dictator for an international crime. Eventually it was turned down by British Home Secretary Jack Straw, who rejected (on health grounds) Garzón’s request to have Pinochet extradited to Spain.

Of course, Pinochet happens to have supported Maggie Thatcher during the Malvinas/Falklands war. So is there a double standard?


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Your View


Inter Press Service correspondent Humberto Márquez (Herald, August 5) repeats the same mistake made by his colleague, Natalia Ruíz Díaz (Herald, July 28). He stresses: “The new government of Paraguay, led by Lugo’s former vice-president, Federico Franco, has only been officially recognized by Taiwan and the Vatican.” Does this mean that Paraguay is isolated from the international community?

Federico Franco was sworn in on Friday, June 22. Germany’s International Development Minister Dirk Niebel met with Franco on Saturday and became the first foreign official to express support for the new government.

The United States and Spain have avoided publicly opposing or supporting the move, instead pressing the principle of democracy in Paraguay. A statement from the Spanish Foreign Ministry said: “Spain defends full respect for democratic institutions and the state of law and trusts that Paraguay, in respect for its constitution and international commitments, will manage to handle this political crisis and safeguard the peaceful co-existence of the Paraguayan people.”

The United States took a similar stance. US State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan was quoted as saying: “We urge all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay’s democratic principles.”

I’ve already quoted Canadian Ministry of External Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs) official Diane Ablonczy issuing a similar non-committal statement (Your View, August 4).


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Your View


With reference to present-day Paraguay, Inter Press Service correspondent Natalia Ruiz Díaz states that “the government has failed to overcome its international isolation, having only been officially recognized by Taiwan and the Vatican” (Herald, July 28).

What’s true is that both states promptly recognized the new government because they have a grudge against deposed President Fernando Lugo. The former Catholic bishop had been suspended ad divinis by the Holy See. Moreover, Paraguay is the only South American country to recognize the Republic of China instead of the People’s Republic of China as the sole and legitimate government of China (including Taiwan).

Traditionally, Paraguayan diplomats at the United Nations backed regular proposals at the General Assembly sessions for the return of the Republic of China into the UN Organization. However, in the fall of 2008, the recently elected Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo, whose inauguration just a few days earlier had been attended by Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou, announced that his country wouldn’t do it at the 63rd annual session of the UN General Assembly.

Nevertheless, the present government has also been recognized by Canada, Germany, Spain and the United States. Washington more or less sat out the crisis, issuing just a few noncommittal remarks. Germany and Spain have done likewise. Canadian Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs) Diane Ablonczy issued the following statement: “Canada notes that Fernando Lugo has accepted the decision of the Paraguayan Senate to impeach him and that a new president, Federico Franco, has been sworn in. The stability and respect for democracy that currently exist in the region have been hard-won and must be protected. We call for calm throughout Paraguay and will continue to follow developments closely.”


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Your View


What is perhaps most devastating about Ceferino Reato’s book Disposición Final is Jorge Rafael Videla’s acknowledgment that he continues receiving religious comfort from the Catholic Church for his human wrongdoing. He attends Holy Mass every day in his detention centre and sleeps peacefully, surely thanks to the spiritual support received from sympathetic clergy. By just reading Emilio Mignone’s Iglesia y dictadura or Horacio Verbitsky’s La mano izquierda de Díos, one can have a clear picture of the Catholic hierarchy’s full-hearted backing of the so-called “Dirty War.” And it is the likes of Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who had no qualms in handing over dissenting priests to military torturers (see Horacio Verbitsky’s El Silencio), who still question present-day realities while hiding their own involvement in crimes against humanity.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Your View


I whole-heartedly support this government. It has put human rights on the front page of the national agenda. That’s why I fully agree with Bob Cox. Jorge Lanata should be returned to digital life on Página/12’s website. I don’t agree with his views nowadays but he has the right to freely express them.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Your View


According to Pablo Marchetti (Your View, May 26) Videla was very far from Hitler. Did Videla just murder terrorists? Didn’t he get rid of everybody in between? Are the number of victims crucial in the comparison? Or is it the methodology?

Secret detention centres, no due process, rape, torture, dehumanization of defenceless victims, use of state propaganda to cover up mass murder. We must thank Jorge Rafael Videla for enlightening us on his lack of humanity in Ceferino Reato’s recent book entitled “Disposición Final.” Argentina not only imported Nazis. It had its own crop. Jorge Rafael Videla was the leader of the pack.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, January 21, 2012   |

Your View


Mr. Dennis Dunn has repeatedly criticized Robert Cox and the Herald for giving so much space “to his memoirs and his smooth pen”, questioning the relevance of both during the last military dictatorship (Your View, February 26, October 15, and December 3, 2011).

As a former journalist, he’s made it perfectly clear he considers himself “king of the hill, top of the heap”, also questioning my “pedigree” to emit an opinion (Your View, October 29, 2011).

That’s why I decided to contrast his short-sighted views regarding the Malvinas/Falklands with those of The Guardian journalist Richard Gott (Your View, December 31, 2011). His reaction was to state that Mr. Gott is “one of Britain’s most vociferous indignados”, considering that I obviously have no valid views of my own (Your View, January 7). In other words, when I opine, he questions my CV, and when I don’t, he complains, questioning the merits of fellow journalists. He then extensively quotes an article bylined Ian Dunt that refers to a completely different aspect of the matter: a clever way to distract readers from a clear-cut response, which would evidently show that he’s out of touch with reality.

This is the real McCoy: Mr. Dunn personally addresses Malvinas/Falklands islanders, assuring them their “ships will always be welcome at any nearby Chilean port”.

He further states that, outside Argentina, the Mercosur countries “have no real axe to grind” over their wish for sovereignty and prosperity from their oil and other commercial activities. So then, why did they support Argentina’s position? “They seem to be spellbound by the recent overwhelming successes of our lady president”, adding the following: “Argentina and its neighbouring countries are all suffering from prolonged post-natal effects following years of colonial exploitation coupled with internal corruption (always inherent in Latin America)”.

In short, Mr. Dunn isn’t quite sure what’s going on, so he states that Latin American diplomacy “seems to be spellbound” by the electoral successes of Cristina. (Perhaps bewitched?) This can only mean that these nations are incapable of adopting rational foreign policies of their own. And if this doesn’t satisfy readers, he throws in corruption to this pot of nonsense, catalogued as inherent in the region. Does this mean that North Americans and Europeans, to start with, are all altar-boys?

Is this the rational conclusion of a respected journalist? Or rather another sad symptom that Mr. Dunn should hurry and get an appointment with a gerontologist?


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, December 31, 2011   |


Malvinas/Falklands islanders should read the article published by Richard Gott in The Guardian last December 22: “Britain is asleep over Argentina and the Falklands.” It succinctly states that Britain should wake up to the reality that South America is growing in strength and increasingly united.

This viewpoint differs completely from that expressed by Dennis Dunn (Your View, December 24), who once again has shown us that he has lost contact with the real world.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, December 24, 2011   |


José Manuel Palli — who presents himself as a Cubargie writing for the Herald — states that Marco Rubio, the freshman Senator from Florida, “seems to be God’s gift to those of us who pray daily for a sign that leadership in the United States is extant. He is bright, personable, articulate, youthful — but still managing to sound wiser than his youth might suggest — and in almost no time has captured the imagination of people way beyond Florida.” (On Sunday, December 11).

What’s for sure is that he has truly caught our attention. Last November 15, Senator Rubio sponsored an amendment (S.AMD. 969) to the “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012” (H.R. 2354) requiring that the Secretary of the Treasury direct the US Executive Director of every international financial institution to oppose providing loans to Argentina until it solves the debt in default with the remaining bondholders (holdouts) who did not tender their bonds in the last debt swap.

Fortunately, H.R. 2354 passed the Senate on December 17 without taking into consideration the proposed amendment. This was God’s gift to us, while Mr. Palli seems to be “Sleeping with the Enemy.”


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, December 17, 2011   |


We all make mistakes. Robert Cox has just admitted that he was wrong in supporting the Reagan Doctrine (Herald, December 11). I voted for Ronald Reagan in spite of having supported Jimmy Carter’s human rights policy. The sole reason was because I considered Carter’s US domestic policy a disaster.

But I was living in Buenos Aires and my friend Mónica Mignone had been detained-disappeared. And I still hadn’t let my American citizenship lapse into oblivion, simply for not having realized that Argentina (where I was born) was my place on earth.

The United States taught me to fight for my rights. It’s Argentina where I learnt the real meaning of human rights, the hard way.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, December 10, 2011   |


What do Daniel Rus and Mario Villani have in common? Both worked at the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) and were detained-disappeared in 1977, on different dates. The difference is that Mario was released after having survived the ordeal of three years and eight months in five clandestine detention centres (Club Atlético, El Banco, El Olimpo, Pozo de Quilmes and ESMA Navy Mechanics School); Daniel simply disappeared.

I’ve already mentioned the testimony of Daniel’s mother, Sara Rus, regarding the similarities between Auschwitz and Argentina (Your View, December 3). Now there’s the view of a survivor (Mario Villani y Fernando Reati: Desaparecido: memorias de un cautiverio. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2011).

Daniel’s father, Bernardo Rus, hoped that his son, for being a scientist, would survive. Mario Villani survived, and continually pinpoints that he doesn’t know why. The difference: Daniel Rus was a Jew.

In his prologue to Mario Villani’s book, Supreme Court Justice Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni states: “If events had been different — let’s say, normal — maybe you and I would have been opposites. I could have been the judge who sentenced you. And now I’m writing the prologue to your testimony. The first clue is in this paradox: there weren’t two demons, simply Hell that impeded such confrontation. Whatever one may judge regarding what you and many others did, Hell unites me to you in solidarity with your pain as a victim of concentration camps.”

I fully agree.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, December 3, 2011   |


The successful political career of “dirty warrior” Antonio Domingo Bussi truly poses some uncomfortable questions regarding Argentine democratic society at large (Editorial, November 26).

Why have so many stories sprung up concerning the possible refuge of Adolf Hitler in our country? Why did Nazis like Erich Priebke walk freely throughout the country without needing to conceal their identity?

Truly speaking, the “Proceso” — with all its horrors — was possible because society, as a whole, looked the other way. Very much like Germans under the Nazis.

That’s why Bernardo Rus — a survivor of Nazi concentration camps — couldn’t stand the pain and died shortly after Raúl Alfonsín was sworn in.

His son Daniel was “detained-disappeared” when leaving work at the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) in Ezeiza, on July 15, 1977.

His wife Sara has given testimony of the similarities between Auschwitz and Argentina (Eva Eisenstaedt. Sobrevivir dos veces. Buenos Aires: Milan, 2007, 168 pages).

Finally, there’s a clear answer for your editorial query: “If Bussi could sometimes take office, why were 394,000 citizens of Buenos Aires province disenfranchised when they voted for Luis Patti in 2005?” Just look at who was at the helm in the Casa Rosada: Bussi took office under Carlos Menem, Patti was disenfranchised under Néstor Kirchner.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, November 19, 2011   |


Helen Arocena died without knowing the fate of her son Marcos. On November 8 both were reunited in the cemetery (Herald, November 13).

Many parents of the desaparecidos have died without having healed the pain. Some have even passed away on account of it.

On November 9, after 27 years, I encountered Sara Rus at the Buenos Aires Shoah Museum during a ceremony commemorating Reichskristallnacht. Her husband, Bernardo, a survivor — like herself — of Nazi concentration camps, died of cancer in 1984. He couldn’t stand the pain of not knowing the fate of his disappeared son.

Fortunately, Sara has lived to bear testimony to the horrors of mankind, duly recognized by the City Legislature in naming her “Illustrious Citizen.” Bernardo Rus has meant a lot to me. He taught me to struggle and not forget. Until I die.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, November 5, 2011   |


Mr. Dennis Dunn questions my pedigree to opine in the Herald (Your View, October 29). He states that Robert Cox was one of the reporters of this newspaper in the 60s while His Lordship was a correspondent for an internationally-known news magazine. Does this mean Lord Dunn is more entitled to express his views? Do professional credentials override rational criteria? Is the messenger more important than the message?

Mr. Dunn whines that a number of his “letters regarding Robert Cox’s repetitive criticisms of the last military dictatorship have been ignored” while my “data-encrusted sermons seem to be invariably included in the readers’ forum every weekend”. I’d like him to specify which other Argentine newspaper has published letters criticizing a former editor internationally recognized for his work in the realm of human rights. Should the Herald be the only one to repeatedly practise self-flagellation?

I agree with Dennis Dunn in having “no interest in prolonging this futile discussion about Bob Cox’s merits as a columnist and historian.” But instead of just skipping page 2 of the Herald’s Sunday Edition, I suggest he subscribe to some other publication more in tune with his élitist, pro-military dictatorship views.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, October 29, 2011   |


As you correctly state in last Thursday’s editorial, Néstor Kirchner should be remembered “for who he really was and what he really did”.

Just the day before, events taking place in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, put into perspective where our country stands on the human rights world podium, thanks to both Raúl Alfonsín and the aforementioned.

In Buenos Aires a court sentenced 12 former military and police officers to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity committed during the country’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Congress passed a law to begin an official inquiry into the human rights violations committed during the 1964-85 military dictatorship. The law was passed after a consensus was reached between lawmakers, the government and military officers after it was agreed that the 1979 Law of Amnesty would not be repealed. And in Montevideo, the Uruguayan Congress adopted a law which eliminates the effects of the 1986 Amnesty Law (also known as Expiry Law), which protected police and military personnel from being prosecuted for human rights violations, and repeals a statute of limitations which would have prevented victims from filing criminal complaints as of November 1.

Both Raúl Alfonsin and Néstor Kirchner had their “dark side”. The former will be remembered for the landmark trial of the military Juntas; the latter for repealing the Due Obedience and Full Stop Laws put into place by his predecessor, opening the gates for justice down the chain of command.

There’s no need for “extravagant eulogies.” The truth is good enough.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, October 22, 2011   |


One thing is for sure: at the Herald — and this distinguishes this newspaper from all the rest — “everybody’s entitled to their opinion” (Editor’s note, Your View, October 15). This remark is made in reference to Denis Dunn’s letter regarding Robert Cox’s October 9 column entitled “Why Argentina is unique”.

Mr. Dunn states that Cox is “self-indulgent” and has an extremely suspect perspective as a “self-effacing evangelist”; his underlying message is “to hell with authority” and he subtly manipulates “the idea of a Messianic presence by a handful of journalists on a modest-sized newspaper (let’s face it) defying a ‘devilish’ government”; he also emits “a whiff of the left-wing Peronist John William Cooke”. However, Denis Dunn presents no substance for the above affirmations.

The article in question is referred to ”the Search for Argentina’s Lost Children”. Cox refers to a meeting, during the Menem administration, with a Brazilian diplomat in which the subject was brought up. Furthermore, he mentions his testimony last month on the witness stand in the trial of the junta members, military and police charged with “appropriating babies.” The relevance of these personal accounts is that the reason for child abduction is put into question and leads to the two views of why it happened provided by the book under review: “Who do you think you are” by Andrew Graham-Yooll. Cox also states that “at the Herald we had the joy of being able to save some children who wer returned to their grandparents”. Is being proud of saving lives, and stating it in print, “self-indulgence”? Or should he be ashamed and shut up?

In his open letter to Bob Cox (Your View, February 26), Mr. Dunn is perfectly clear: “I find it sad that you continue to harp on about old injustices and acts of cruelty in what appears to be an ongoing vendetta against Argentina’s military rulers between 1976 and 1983, over 30 years ago”. He also states: “Your story of the Buenos Aires Herald’s brave stance at that time (and it is a GREAT story) is more suitable material for a book on aspects of Argentine history, starting with the cruelties inflicted by the Spanish conquistadors on the South American natives.”

Does Mr. Dunn believe that “old injustices and acts of cruelty” should benefit from impunity?

Moreover, in his last letter, Mr. Dunn adds that “Mr. Cox is slick but by no means convincing to a large proportion of his readers”. It seems he hasn’t paid due attention to reality: In 2010, Robert Cox was made “an illustrious Citizen of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires” by the City Legislature, and the Argentine Senate awarded the former Herald editor “the Commemorative Medal of the Bicentenary of the May Revolution 1810-2010 for his courageous and unconditional commitment to democracy and human rights during the last military dictatorship” (Herald, November 24, 2010, page 4). In the afore-mentioned open letter, Mr. Dunn urges Robert Cox to stop “digging old bones from the past”. Perhaps he should lay his own to rest.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, October 15, 2011   |


In “The Mouse that Roared”, the tiny European Duchy of Grand Fenwick supposedly located in the Alps between Switzerland and France, proudly retains a pre-industrial economy, dependent almost entirely on making Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. However, an American winery makes a knockoff version, “Pinot Grand Enwick”, putting the country on the verge of bankruptcy.

The prime minister decides that their only course of action is to declare war on the United States. Expecting a quick and total defeat (since their standing army is tiny and equipped with bows and arrows), the country confidently expects to rebuild itself through the generous largesse which the United States bestows on all its vanquished enemies (as it did for Germany through the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II).

The theatrical release poster for the 1959 film states: “They’re taking over the country in an invasion of laughs!” However, Peter Sellers, who stars in three roles (including that of Prime Minister), died in 1980.

That’s why the 2011 sequel casts the former president of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, defending the realm from the hoards of Gualeguaychú assemblymen (and women) threatening to dynamite the pulp mill situated on the border of his country and Argentina.

For this purpose, he’s fully prepared for war thanks to the five planes which comprise the Uruguayan Air Force, with enough fuel to last a 24-hour time-span and absolutely no guarantee that the planes will return to base. This explains his need for backup. Being the first Uruguayan president ideologically to the left of the political spectrum, he decides to seek the help of like-minded George Bush.

Peter Sellers, eat your heart out!


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, October 8, 2011   |


UNESCO’s life sciences prize in the name of Equatorial Guinea’s president “has stirred the ire of numerous Western nations as well as scientists, Nobel Prize winners and other notables around the world” (Herald, October 1). But we should also look closer to home.

Argentina holds a seat in UNESCO’s Executive Council, which must vote on this issue. That’s why on October 13, 2010, the Argentine Lower House of Congress unanimously passed a declaration requesting our government to reconsider the granting of this prize. The initiative was presented by three Victory Front members from Chaco province: Antonio Morante, Viviana Damilano Grivarello and María Inés Pilatti Vergara.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, October 1, 2011   |


There are three great champions of human rights who represent Argentina abroad. Robert Cox mentions Luis Moreno Ocampo and Juan Méndez (“From Where I Stand”, September 18). Fabián Salvioli, current vice-president of the UN Human Rights Committee, is the third. His CV shows that he has earned his spurs in human rights. See:


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 24, 2011   |


Is the search for Justice a joke? Are the raped, tortured, kidnapped and disappeared something to laugh about? Is it funny that there’s still rampant impunity regarding crimes against humanity committed during the military dictatorship? Why does Dennis Dunn take these matters so lightheartedly? (Your View, September 17). Did both Robert Cox and Andrew Graham-Yooll laugh their way into exile for daring to speak up for human rights? Or was the laughing dunn by Mr. Dunn while both fine journalists had to run for their lives? Dennis Dunn seems quite worried about “a self-seeking government, rising unemployment coupled with the crime rate and world inflation.” His sensitivity to the fate of other human beings seems quite underdunn. Or is it the consequence of simply being dumb?


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 17, 2011   |


Readers who enjoyed Robert Cox’s review of Pepe Eliaschev’s book The Men of the Trial should take a good look at the following article published in the December 2010 issue of Sur – international journal of human rights ( Juan carlos Gutiérrez and Silvano cantu, “The Restriction of Military Jurisdiction in International Human Rights Protection Systems”. It recognizes a series of principles applicable to the administration of justice, including military jurisdiction, in which international human rights law and international humanitarian law agree. The trial of the Argentine military juntas was truly a milestone.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 10, 2011   |


At a recent US Embassy reception in honor of this newspaper’s 135th birthday, Ambassador Vilma Martínez stated that the Herald “is internationally recognized as one of the world’s most highly respected defenders of democracy, human rights and journalistic freedom” (Herald, August 21). Once again, Robert Cox has shown us why.

In his Sunday column titled “A crime against human rights” (August 28), Cox –aided by the reminiscences of Andrew Graham-Yooll and Uki Goñi- mentions the damage done to human rights by distortions on both sides of the political divide. On the one hand, the inflated number of crimes attributed to terrorists presented by an organization that calls itself CELTYS; on the other, the “dubious additions” to the list of victims of State terrorism made by the Kirchner administration, as well as the rewriting of Ernesto Sabato’s introduction to the “Nunca Más” report.

In short, as time goes by, human rights have been tainted by politics. Shouldn’t these three fine journalists get together and tell us the Herald’s full story during that tragic period in Argentine history?  It would help put the record straight, once and for all. Because, contrary to what R.M. Macnie sustains (Your View, September 3), I believe Mr. Cox should continue to “harp on things that started happening 35 years ago and ceased 25 years ago”.

Why does the international community continue to condemn Nazis who committed atrocities more than half a century ago? I suggest reading Judge Baltasar Garzón’s prologue to the book recently published by Argentine Supreme Court Chief Justice (Ricardo Luis Lorenzetti y Alfredo Jorge Kraut. Derechos Humanos: justicia y reparación. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2011, 312 pages). On page 16 he states: “The path of democracy shouldn’t be that of forgetfulness; if this were the case, it would lead us to disaster on account of the accumulated ethical deficit”.

Since the Herald will already have marked its 135th anniversary before the next Your View, I’d like to share with your readers the Lower House resolution presented on Thursday by deputy Antonio Morante regarding this occasion:

“Founded on September 15, 1876 under the name of The Buenos Aires Herald by Scottish immigrant William Cathcart, it originally consisted of a single sheet with advertisements on the cover and mostly shipping information (departures and arrivals in the Port of Buenos Aires) on the back. When its founder sold it a year later, it changed its weekly format to a daily more typical of a newspaper. It quickly became a touchstone for the English-speaking community living in Argentina.

In 1925, the brothers Junius Julius and Claude Ronald Rugeroni bought the newspaper. In 1968, the Evening Post Publishing Company of Charleston, South Carolina bought up a major share from J.J. Rugeroni, becoming sole owner in 1998. On December 15, 2007, the Argentine businessman Sergio Szpolski sold the publication to Anfin, which edits the newspaper Ámbito Financiero (acquired some months previously by Orlando Vignatti).

During the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina, the Buenos Aires Herald under the British journalist Robert Cox was the only medium (alongside La Prensa) to report on the people going missing. Because of this he was illegally arrested and after his release, his family was systematically subjected to threats, apart from an attempt on his life and an attempt to kidnap his wife – the imminence of his disappearance or murder obliged him to leave the country in 1979.

This story has been brilliantly told by his son David in a recently published book. David had recently published the correspondence between his father and his close friend, Harry Ingham, which brings to light his reflections on the tragic years both in Argentina and exile.

Robert Cox currently spends half the year in Buenos Aires and writes a Sunday column every week for the Herald.

As US Ambassador Vilma Martínez said in a reception to honour the 135th anniversary: “The Herald is internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious defender of democracy, human rights and journalistic freedom. The Herald is an institution which transcends the newspaper itself and whose legacy will endiure in time”.

As representatives of the Argentine people, we would like to extend and express recognition of the work done by this journalistic medium towards full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms when most kept silent, whether due to complicity or fear. That is why we request approval of this resolution”.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 3, 2011   |


Andrew Graham-Yooll (The men who held the trial, Aug. 23) applauds Pepe Eliaschev’s lack of neutrality in his latest book regarding the trial of the military Juntas. He also agrees with the author that it’s “the most remarkable civilian enterprise in the history of Argentina”.

I must admit that neutrality is impossible in the face of human horror. And compared to what occurred in Cambodia, Greece and South Africa, this trial in the dawn of Argentine democracy stands out as remarkable.

The importance of this book is that we get an insight into the personal, professional and political background of those who were responsible for this historical feat.

Nevertheless, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. To get another side of the story I suggest readers get hold of Ulises Gorini’s “La otra lucha.- Historia de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo”.- Tomo II (1983-1986). Buenos Aires: La Página, 2011, 528 pages. Alfonsin’s motives in differentiating responsibilities in the military chain of command were questioned by the human rights movement, as well as the passage of the Full Stop and Due Obedience laws.

Eliaschev does an excellent job differentiating the trial of the Juntas from Nüremberg. However he doesn’t present any argument whatsoever to sustain his assertion that, since 2003, the Kirchners have systematically played down its relevance (page 374). Neither does he explain why he stamps as “Soviet” the new prologue to the Final Report of the National Commission of the Disappearance of Persons (page 407).

Nevertheless, this book is an important step in helping us get the full picture of the most terrible period in modern day Argentina.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 27, 2011   |


Margarita Rosenfeld (Your View, Aug. 20) states that we should feel deeply ashamed of our Supreme Court, since basic values have been banished from it, on account of Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni’s promotion of prostitution. She also argues that he should step down to allow the Court to become respectable again.

In other words, Ms. Rosenfeld states that Justice Zaffaroni is guilty as charged, before he has even exercised his right to proper defense. She likewise forgets that members of this Supreme Court were the first ever selected under open public scrutiny in 2003 and that Zaffaroni has impeccable human rights credentials, recognized worldwide.

Nevertheless, since this is a year of Presidential elections, a scandal of this proportion has been thrown into the political arena. Thus opposition presidential candidate Ricardo Alfonsín has said that Zaffaroni should resign, while Elisa Carrió has stated that he should be submitted to impeachment proceedings. In this respect, Justice Zaffaroni has said he’s willing to go to Congress and give all explanations necessary, but only after October 23. In other words, the issue is removed from the political limelight.

Is this is the right decision? Justice Zaffaroni was nominated to the Supreme Court by ex President Néstor Kirchner. The present accusation against him was brought about by N.G.O. “La Alameda”, headed by Gustavo Vera, a good friend of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, sworn enemy of Zaffaroni (Noticias, Aug. 6, page 105). Moreover, Carlos Slepoy, plaintiff in lawsuits brought against Argentine repressors in Spain, has accused a member of “La Alameda”, Carlos Ganora, of defending former Navy lieutenant commander Alfredo Scilingo (La Nación, Aug. 4). In other words, are those who one way or another collaborated with the military dictatorship trying to discredit one of the pillars of democracy?

Justice Zaffaroni is not above the law and, as everyone else, is innocent until proven guilty. He should have his day before the Impeachment Committee in Congress. But this doesn’t mean facing a political lynching squad nor playing into the hands of the enemies of democracy.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 20, 2011   |


Dennis Dunn (Your View, Aug. 6) states that horrors during the military dictatorship were inflicted by “a minority of military (and police) officers” and later underlines: “The ‘Beasts of Buenos Aires’ can be counted on the fingers of both hands”.

If there are only ten culprits, why were there 156 clandestine detention centers throughout the country positively identified by the CONADEP? Were they also physically responsible for the detention, torture and final disappearance of more than 9.000 Argentines? Why have 160 repressors already stood trial and been condemned for crimes against humanity? What were the demands of Aldo Rico and his band of carapintadas during the Easter uprising of 1987? Why were the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws passed by Congress? Just for ten “beasts”? Why did Menem decree an amnesty? Didn’t the military dictatorship try to get as many members as possible of the Armed and Security Forces involved in the repressive machinery, precisely to guarantee impunity? How many within their ranks openly denounced these repressive methods? Why is it that they only account for 2,5% of the detained-disappeared? Doesn’t this mean that most of them participated, justified or merely looked the other way?

Eugenio Bezzola tries to give Mr. Dunn a hand (Your View, Aug. 13). He’s reminded of the Stalinist purges when criticizing the present Government’s denial to promote “Army and Navy officers with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and Commander with very high qualifications because their surnames were related to the Proceso 1976-83 military dictatorship without necessarily being involved in the repression of those years”.

How can he be so sure? Can’t this be the consequence of having adopted a clandestine method of repression? Are all repressors accounted for?

In the end, Mr. Dunn minimizes the number of victimizers, while Mr. Bezzola forgets that the Argentine clandestine detention centers were true Stalinist Gulags. Are the rest of us stupid?


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 13, 2011   |


In their letters over the last year Christina and Thomas Reese have been coming up with variations on a theme stated last May 21: “Argentina is a MESS. Why? Because it has never become a full-fledged democracy. The government is on the road to becoming either a dictatorship or a fascist state.” Does this mean the Reese’s espouse democratic values? Let’s see previous statements.

Regarding the military dictatorship, Thomas Reese makes no distinction between State terrorism and that of guerrilla organizations (Your View, Nov. 20), considering the latter just as evil as Admiral Massera. On the other hand, his wife characterizes Jacobo and Héctor Timerman as “despicable characters” and believes incomprehensible that they be considered “victims of the armed forces” (Your View, March 12). In other words, there is no primacy of due process and the rule of law, basic standards of democracy.

With reference to squatters in this city, Christina Reese states (Your View, Dec.11): “Apparently, the city of Buenos Aires is to become the dumping-ground of South America, and its citizens the financiers of these waves of illegals.” And her husband underlines how Mayor Macri could deal with them (Your View, Jan. 8): “Having proper funding, he could develop a sufficient number of highly trained city policemen who could enter all applicable zones and determine the legal/illegal status of all inhabitants, then send all those who are illegal back to the country they came from”. Are illegals a tsunami of trash dumped into the nation’s capital? Is a Mayor empowered to expel aliens from the country?  Is this to be settled by the police? Is there no consideration for human rights?

Finally, the Reese’s simply seem to be bleeding by their pocket. In their letter of May 21, they mention a luncheon at a “well-known and supposedly prestigious” city club, at 150 pesos per person, characterized by the ill-manners they claim are an example of Argentine decadence. Concurrently, Christina Reese emphasizes in her letter of last December: “As a tax-payer of this city, already being threatened with a hefty increase in next year’s ABL, I strongly object that my money will be going to finance people who have no business here in the first place and should we come to that, I will sell my property and move on to more reasonable pastures.”

Before heading for the airport, I suggest the Reese’s change their acquaintances and find cheaper clubs to have lunch. There are rude and impolite people in all levels of society, anywhere in the world. And a country cannot be judged by one ill-selected expensive experience. Argentina is a democracy with many defects. But it is neither on the road to dictatorship or fascism.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 6, 2011   |


As Robert Cox correctly states (July 24), Emilio Mignone is a true hero for humanity. In the process of searching for his daughter Monica, he joined forces with grieving parents of other detained-disappeared Argentines and led the way in making the outside world aware of the atrocities being committed in this country.

And nothing more appropriate than comparing Monica Mignone with Anne Frank. For those of us who lived through those tragic years alongside the Mignone’s, Monica wasn’t a friend to mourn but a cause to fight for.

As Anne Frank inspired so many around the world in the struggle against Nazism, the kidnapping of Monica Mignone really changed my life. And I must thank both Emilio and Chela Mignone for that.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, September 25, 2010   |


Why is someone who defends human rights in Argentina tagged as a leftist? I have always asked myself this question.

Last Sunday, in his (I hope) regular column, Robert Cox gave me a clue. Why have human rights been politicized? Cox pinpoints that this is the inevitable result of being denied any information about the whereabouts of the “disappeared”.

There is, I believe, another reason, that helps answer both questions. After the historic trial of the military juntas, mainstream political parties were responsible for looking the other way while Mothers and Grandmothers felt ever more frustration as time went by. The Due Obedience and Full Stop laws passed under Raúl Alfonsín, and Carlos Menem’s amnesty were more nails in the coffin of human rights as the banners of both Radicals and Peronists. It’s no won der that both Néstor and Cristina Kirchner have been accused of “appropriating” the human rights banner. All previous governments, in one way or another, defaulted.

Take, for example, the meanderings of the Argentine ratification of the Convention on the Non-Applicability of the Statute of Limitations for war Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. In the aftermath of the July 18, 1994 terrorist attack on the AMIA/DAIA building in Buenos Aires and all the fuss surrounding the extradition of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke, Menem promised Rubén Beraja (then DAIA President) that he would send a bill to Congress ratifying this convention. But he was pre-empted by the tehn chairman of the recently created Lower House Human Rights Committee, Claudio Ramiro Mendoza, a Peronist from Chaco (and brother-in-law of provincial Governor Jorge Capitanich). By the end of 1995, the Convention had passed both the House and Senate. But the Executive got cold feet: it didn’t deposit the instrument of ratification before the United Nations. Neither did Fernando de la Rúa nor Eduardo Duhalde, nor all those in between. It was not until Néstor Kirchner took over the presidency that Argentina finally ratified the Convention.

I would like to thank Robert Cox for his insightful analysis. Welcome back to this “great little newspaper”. You help us sort out the past.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, July 24, 2010   |


During the past week, President Cristina Kirchner has been criticized in the media (including your editorial, July 18) for not having brought up the subject of human rights during her recent visit to the People’s Republic of China. True, Tibetans are repressed and practitioners of Falun Gong are persecuted. However, those same voices are mute every time the Argentine President visits Washington D.C. Are prisoners in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib in Iraq not human beings? United States President Jimmy Carter was criticized for his double standard in human rights. However, he saved lives. He made a difference. I don’t agree with these double standards. But this is the real world.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, July 17, 2010   |


Michael Geraghty is right (Herald, July 11). Irish Embassy officials were both prompt and courageous when intervening to save the lives of Patrick Rice and Fátima Cabrera, after being detained and savagely tortured.

My mother, a descendant of the McKeons from County Longford, was the Irish Ambassador’s secretary at that time. She told me that, while detained, Patrick was able to communicate freely with the Irish Ambassador bhy speaking in Gaelic, so his military captors had no idea of what he was saying.

Throughout the years I’ve had the privilege of meeting Patrick Rice on several occasions. He was a living example of the spirit of the “fighting Irish”. We will surely miss him.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, July 3, 2010   |


The facts presented in your editorial of June 27 notwithstanding, the truth of the matter is that, throughout the years, sports have been used for political motives. Remember Adolf Hitler and the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games? Who can forget the East Bloc’s emphasis on gymnastic excellence during the Cold War? And what about allegations that Argentina’s 1978 World Cup victory was bought by a hefty investment in the military dictatorship of Peru?

Sports can also be used for repressive purposes, as is currently being denounced by Amnesty International regarding South Africa. Regulations created to comply with FIFA World Cup requirements in host cities are being used by police to expel homeless people and street traders from “controlled access sites” and exclusion zones around World Cup venues. Penalties for offences under the regulations include fines of up to 10,000 Rand (1,300 dollars) or imprisonment of up to six months. In May hawkers protested outside the local FIFA operations center in Soweto, calling for an end to evictions and the disruption of their means of livelihood near soccer stadiums. Elsewhere tense confrontations have occurred between police and street traders, over seizures of street traders’ goods, in the name of cleaning up the streets for the World Cup.

I’m all for Nelson Mandela backing the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo for the Nobel Peace Prize. But Argentine human rights organizations, ans society as a whole, should be taking a good look at what’s happening in South Africa regarding human rights.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, June 19, 2010   |



I must disagree with Lisette Kasbarian (Your View, June 12). Is censorship a short cut to the truth´The fact that Ergun Kirlikovali expressed his opinion –no matter how abhorrent it may be to some of us- has provoked a healthy debate in this section regarding a tragic period of world history.

The Herald has not suppressed this debate. Is there any other Buenos Aires daily that offers such a possibility? For expressing an opinion on-line not congruent with the editorial opinion of a major daily, I have been automatically banned from making any further comment. There have been recent letters in this section with which I fully disagree. However, this is what we call freedom of expression. It´s one of the basic human rights.


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, May 22, 2010   |


Has Argentina become a de facto dictatorship? Is William Clark right (Your View, May 15)? Does it appear that Argentina is eventually headed towards another complete financial meltdown? Is there no real opposition to the dictates of the Kirchners? No independent Supreme Court? No freely elected senators and deputies in Congress?

Do they control the press? Are armed thugs roaming the streets at night, kidnapping real and apparent opponents? Are we living in Athens 2010, Wall Street 2008, or Buenos Aires 1976? Shouldn’t Mr. Clark be more careful with his words? Has he such a short memory?


Ildefonso Miguel Thomsen

Saturday, August 22, 2009   |


Peter Singer’s commentary regarding as to whether selling organs should be a crime (On Sunday, August 16) brings to mind what has been going on for years in the People’s Republic of China, namely organ-harvesting, which is not solely a crime but a grave human rights violation.

This practice was brought to my attention last year by Hon. David Kilgour, a Canadian MP and former external affairs minister, who visited Buenos Aires accompanying the human rights torch on its world-wide tour prior to last year’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

Kilgour was received by the Human Rights Committee of the Argentine Lower House, where he astonished us all with his report entitled: “An Independent Investigation into Allegations of Organ-Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China” ( Up to that moment, I had no idea what Falun Gong was all about neither could I believe that such a Nazi-like practice could be taking place in the 21st century in one of the five member states of the UN Security Council.

In a few words, since Falun Gong teaches “truth, benevolence and tolerance”, the Chinese Communist Party has been persecuting them for already 10 years. Falun Gong practitioners don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so their organs are in top shape to be forcefully transplanted and sold to those eager to pay the price.

There is further proof of China’s fierce persecution of Falun Gong practitioners: the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights practices, the Congressional Executive Commission on China 2008 Annual Report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2007 Report, Amnesty International’s 1st September 2008 letter to the UN’s Human Rights Council, the European Parliament Deputy Speaker’s letter to UN Secretary-General of 25 April 2009, and finally the letter sent to US President Barack Obama by 50 congressmen on July 8, 2009.

Selling organs is only the top of the iceberg. Let’s focus on the real McCoy.


Ildefonso Thomsen

Congress Advisor

Saturday, August 23, 2003   |


The Executive has taken the right step for the wrong reason. The bill proposing the ratification of the Convention on the Non-Applicability of the Statute of Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity was presented in 1994 by the President of the Human Rights Committee of the Chamber of Deputies with bi-partisan support.

As his advisor I simply took the initiative in the midst of the media frenzy surrounding the extradition of Erich Priebke and president Menem’s promise to Ruben Beraja (then of DAIA) that this Convention would be ratified. However, with full ratification in 1995, the Executive got cold feet.

Throughout these eight years, there was never an official response to the inquiries made regarding the delay in depositing the instrument of ratification before the UN. Nevertheless, I found out that the fear of retroactivity was the main motive for not taking this last step. Since the Convention entered into force in 1970, the Argentine military dictatorship (1976-83) could presumably be included in its provisions.

This is utterly stupid.

Before presenting the bill at the time I spoke to the late Emilio Mignone, co-founder of CELS (the Centre for Legal and Social Studies) who encouraged me to present this Convention for ratification on account of legal non-retroactivity: the same point you make in your editorial (August 14). The skeleton is –finally- out of the closet. I’m glad to have helped in opening the door.


Ildefonso Thomsen

Saturday, August 23, 2003   |

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