In the Argentine city of Córdoba, a crowd gathered at a site that was once used as a torture and detention facility by the military dictatorship. Activists and human rights groups were celebrating the identification of two men who had been taken as babies by military officials during the junta’s rule. The men were addressing the tense crowd at a tree lighting ceremony, emphasizing the need to continue the fight for justice and warning against letting their guard down.
The rise of far-right political outsider Javier Milei has sparked outrage among the people impacted by the regime’s human rights abuses. His victory in the Argentine presidency is particularly unsettling for residents of Córdoba province, where he received 74 percent of the votes. Milei’s victory challenges the long-standing public consensus on the brutality of the dictatorship, creating a crisis in established norms.
The presence of his vice president, Victoria Villarruel, has added to concerns. Villarruel, who comes from a military family, has been vocal about the success of far-right movements in addressing previously unthinkable ideas. Milei’s campaign has also caused concern due to his promises to dismantle human rights ministries and his dismissal of the atrocities committed during the military rule as mere “excesses.”
Argentina, renowned for its pursuit of justice and historical remembrance, has held military leaders accountable and pursued policies that center on historical remembrance. Human rights organizations have continued their efforts, leading to 133 identified “recovered grandchildren” like Daniel Santucho Navajas. The government has also identified roughly 800 “memory sites” and pursued trials resulting in over 1,200 convictions. However, these efforts have also fueled a right-wing backlash that has turned human rights into a contentious issue in the country’s hyperpolarized political landscape.
As Argentina grapples with the dictatorship’s legacy, Milei and Villarruel’s ascent to power reflects a significant shift in political sentiment. Their success in the elections has highlighted the growing culture war over policies around human rights in the country, causing tension in the communities. Amidst all this, human rights advocates maintain their focus on the need for justice, memory, and continued efforts to seek resolution.