US President Barack Obama said today that the US must reflect on its own role during the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina.
Speaking at a joint conference with President Mauricio Macri to mark the 40th anniversary of the military coup, Obama also confirmed that the US would declassify more dictatorship-era documents, including military and intelligence records for the first time.
“There has been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days,” said Obama after a visit to the Parque de la Memoria, Buenos Aires. “The US, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine on its own policies and past as well.
“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.”
At the same time, Obama praised the efforts of key US diplomats in that era for documenting human rights violations, many of which were declassified in 2002. He also highlighted the role of ex-president Jimmy Carter in putting human rights at the centre of his foreign policy agenda after taking office in 1977.
Obama also praised the families of victims who “refused to give up until they get the truth and justice they deserve.”
“Your relentlessness and determination has made a difference, and driven Argentina’s remarkable efforts to hold repsonsible 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.”
Obama said he hoped releasing more documents would help these relatives find answers, adding that “I believe we have a responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.”
President Macri thanked Obama for visiting on “such an important day for the Argentine people”.
“Today marks the 40th anniversary of the military coup that began the darkest period of our history,” continued Macri. It is an opportunity for all Argentines to say together ‘Nunca Más’ to political and institutional violence.”
“Today we must reaffirm our commitment to democracy and the defense of human rights, which are put in jeopardy every day in some part of the world.”