Hebe de Bonafini, Argentine human rights activist and founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, strongly criticized the timing of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Argentina, which will coincide with the anniversary of the 1976 military coup.
The right-wing Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, who took office in December 2015, has been eager to cozy up to the United States after years of fraught relations between the two countries under the leadership of leftist former presidents.
“Let's raise alarm bells, he did not invite him to visit on a regular date. He invited him to visit March 24 … (Macri) is a servant of theirs,” said de Bonafini, referring to politicians in the United States.
IN DEPTH: Argentina's Day Memory and Justice
March 24 is an official public holiday in Argentina and known as Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. Events are held on that date to commemorate the victims of the dictatorship and Dirty War, backed by the United States, which left up to 30,000 killed or disappeared.
The Plaza de Mayo, seat of the executive in Argentina, is host to large demonstrations on March 24.
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo convene every Thursday at the plaza, however their most recent march was briefly impeded by police after Security Minister Patricia Bullrich announced a new zero tolerance policy for unauthorized demonstrations.
"It hurts me that it is a provocation, a product of the arrogance of Macri wanting to show that the past is over, while we still don't know what happened with our disappeared children and grandchildren," said Nora Cortiñas, a major voice in the Founding Line of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, to El Telegrafo. She said she would go to the Plaza de Mayo with or without Obama.
De Bonafini added that Macri invited Obama on March 24 to try to impede demonstrations. “No one is going to remove us from the Plaza … If they want to beat us, let them beat us. We didn't let Macri have the Plaza on (his inauguration day) and we won't let him have it now. He should forget about it. The Plaza belongs to the people,” she told El Telegrafo.
Macri wanted to stage the handover of power at the Casa Rosada presidential palace, which sits on the Plaza de Mayo, but a sharp disagreement with outgoing President Cristina Fernandez prevented Macri's wishes from being fulfilled.
Instead on her last day in office Fernandez held a massive rally with supporters and Macri was forced to receive the ceremonial presidential baton from the senate president.
Bonafini is a strong critic of President Macri — who has pursued a neoliberal agenda since taking office — comparing him regularly with the dictatorship.
She was accused of “inciting collective violence” for calling for mobilizations and resistance against Macri.
2:32 p.m.: This article was updated on February 26 with quotes from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.