Monday, October 4, 2010

The Story of Patricia Isasa

The story of kidnapping and torture victim Patrica Isasa (and her ultimate victory). Some background: The history of Argentina is full of change. Argentina is a very large country, and it became a strong economy after 1875. It received foreign investment, a lot of immigration from Europe, and it developed very effective modern agriculture. Argentina didn’t have free elections until 1916. Then, Hipolito Yrigoyen won and became the first elected president. Like many of Argentina’s presidents, Yrigoyen became unpopular for economic reasons. The Depression of 1929 resulted in a military coup in Argentina. After World War Two, free elections returned, and Juan Peron was elected president in 1946. His second wife, Eva Peron, was very popular. She became the subject of a famous American popular musical called “Evita”. However, she died in 1952. From 1948 to 1951, the peso lost value and inflation increased greatly. Once again, economic troubles in Argentina led to another military coup in 1955. This coup was very violent. Juan Peron escaped to Europe, and soon was living in Spain. Two presidencies followed, but the military and conservative interests applied a lot of pressure. The military didn’t like it when presidents followed the popular policies of Juan Peron. So, another military coup occurred in 1966. This dictatorship was effective. It helped Argentina’s economy to grow. It reduced poverty. However, it was a repressive regime. There was no tolerance for dissent of any kind. Forces on the left became more violent, and eventually the military was forced to call for free elections again in 1973. Juan Peron was successfully elected president again. He returned from exile. However, Juan Peron died in 1974, and his vice-president and third wife, Isabel Peron, took over as president. Unfortunately, Isabel Peron was not only a weak leader, she was also repressive. Under her leadership, some of her opponents were “disappeared”. This tactic meant that people opposed to the government could be arrested and taken to unknown prisons without any legal trail or any other legal process. After a military coup in 1976, under the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla, these forced disappearances became very common. The illegal arrests and imprisonment of Argentine citizens became known as “The Dirty War” (La Guerra Sucia) It is sad for me, as an American, to know that my country, the United States, was involved and even supportive of these disappearances. For the United States government fighting the cold war meant repressing anyone on the left. Operation Condor, run by the CIA, helped Argentina’s military. Many of Argentina’s military were trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. This school trained soldiers in the use of torture and other repressive tactics. Anyone suspected of being in sympathy with the left could find themselves to be one of the “disappeared” (Desaparecidos) At the time of her kidnapping, in July of 1976, the now successful architect Patricia Indiana Isasa was 16 years old. She was her class delegate to the High School Students Union in the province of Santa Fe in Argentina. After she was kidnapped by the state police and "disappeared" (held secretly) for three months, she was taken to a military barracks and tortured. She was held prisoner, without trial or due process, for more than two years. After her release in 1979, she was kidnapped again by the authorities when she was collecting complaints from others of the disappeared to be presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, which was about to visit Argentina. She was released after a few days. After her terrible experience, she graduated from the school of architecture and moved to London. In 1997 Patricia went back to Santa Fe to care for her sick mother. She realized then that it had been 20 years, and justice had not been served. She took it upon herself to begin an investigation into her kidnappers' identities, which at that time were still unknown to her. She single-handedly conducted research, proving definitely that 8 individuals, including police officers and a judge were responsible. However, there was a law in place that said guilty parties during the dirty war could not be prosecuted. They were immune. The president at the time, Fernando De La Rua, upheld that law. So she took her case to Spain. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon ruled in her favor. He requested their extradition. This extradition was denied by the De La Rua government. Finally, however, under a new president Cristina Kirshner, the 8 individuals were brought to trial. They were found guilty of genocide and torture in 2009, and now they are serving jail terms. On November 20th of this year, activists from all over the U.S. will call for closure of the military’s School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Georgia. Last year’s event drew more than 15,000 from across the country. Renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the school, in its 50 year history, has taught and encouraged torture and illegal execution. A law in the United States now being considered calls for an investigation of this school. Ms. Isasa will visit Mission Campus on Wednesday, October 13th. All of our students are encouraged to hear her speak. Even though she has had a terrible experience, she has shown great courage in bringing to justice those who have illegally arrested her, imprisoned her, and tortured her.

Comprehension Check: Chose a, b, c, or d, whichever answer you think is correct.

1. The American musical “Evita” was a celebration of the life of _________ .
a. Patricia Isasa
b. Eva Peron
c. Isabel Peron
d. Cristina Kirshner

2. Many military coups in Argentina happen after a ________ .
a. dirty war
b. downturn in the economy
c. torture of citizens
d. U.S. intervention

3. Patricia Isasa was held without trial for _________ .
a. one month
b. two years
c. one week
d. ten days

4. A military dictatorship in any country has no tolerance for ____________ .
a. strong economy
b. the World Cup
c. dissent
d. U.S. interference

5. Juan Peron’s vice president before his death in 1974 was ___________ .
a. his third wife
b. his second wife
c. his best friend
d. the head of the military

6. The military of Argentina learned torture methods ______________ .
a. from experience
b. from Spain
c. from neighboring Bolivia
d. from The School of the Americas

7. Under President Fernando De La Rua, the guilty parties during the “Dirty War” (La Guerra Sucia) could not be ___________ .
a. prosecuted
b. released
c. given passports
d. permitted to vote

8. _______________ is a heroic young woman who, after much research and perserverance, has finally brought her kidnappers and torturers to justice.
a. Isabel Peron
b. Christina Kirshner
c. Hipolito Yrigoyen
d. Patricia Isasa

9. Another name for this article could be “ _________.”
a. The History of Argentina
b. Operation Condor
c. Justice Finally Wins Out
d. The Disappeared

10. This story is mainly about __________ .
a. the instability of Argentina
b. the role of agriculture Argentina’s history
c. foreign investment in Argentina
d. the search for justice in Argentina

The following website is in Spanish: Link to Patricia Isasa's website

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