After the brutal dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983, in which the armed forces played a crucial role and commited systematic human rights violations, one of the main consensus of the country’s democratic system was that the military could no longer have the autonomy levels that it had during the 20th century.
This drove the first post-dictatorship president, Raul Alfonsin, to issue a decree that reduced the autonomy of the army to make decisions regarding promotions, rewards and other issues, which would become a faculty of the Defense Ministry. The idea was to increase the political control on the defense forces.
But this consensus that remained untouched since 1984 was altered by a new decree issued by President Mauricio Macri last week, which gave back to the army the same autonomy they had during the dictatorship.
The decree came two weeks after several officials of the Defense Ministry made a trip to the U.S. to restart cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries.
"Defense Ministry officials took part in meetings in Washington"
Secretary of Strategy and Military Affairs, Angel Tello, held meetings with Rebecca Chavez, the U.S. Defense Deputy Secretary for Western Hemisphere Matters. Both officials talked about the possibility of developing joint training programs. But Secretary Tello also told the press that the Macri administration “hopes that Ushuaia—the southernmost city of Argentina—to become logistic base to provide support for the scientific research in the Antarctica."
This quickly captured the attention of analysts who believe that the realignment with the U.S. under Macri together with the possibility of reaching agreements in military affairs are not the best news for Argentina.
Consulted by teleSUR, Jose Luis Garcia, a retired Coronel and founder of the Center of Military for Argentine Democracy, an association of progressive military personnel, argues that “Macri wants to consolidate the international establishment. There is a pending topic for the U.S. in the Southern cone, which is to have a military base in Ushuaia, so together with the British base in the Malvinas Islands, the NATO would have full control on the South Atlantic ocean and it could easily access to the Antarctica”.
Elsa Bruzzone, a geopolitical analyst and expert in national defense, agrees with Garcia. She also points out that the role that the Argentine military had in the dictatorship was related to defense doctrines encouraged by the U.S. regarding the participation of the army in domestic security operations.
“We should remain alert. The National Defense legislation is very clear in forbbiding the military to take part in domestic security. I hope we don’t wake up one day to find out that a new decree by Macri seeks to change that”, she told teleSUR.
The move was harshly criticized by human rights organizations. Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo, Relatives of Disappeared for Political Reasons, HIJOS (which brings together sons and daughters of disappeared) and the Founding Line of Madres de la Plaza de Mayo issued a communique in which they pointed out this move should be understood in the context of a step back in matters of human rights that has been taking place in 2016.
“We have learned that the only way to guarantee democracy is through memory, truth, justice, and the civilian control of the Armed Forces,” the human rights movements argued.