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Sat Aug 13, 2016, 04:00 PM

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo hold their 2,000th march for justice.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the renowned human rights organization founded in 1977 by the mothers of some of the 30,000 disappeared during Argentina's Dirty War, held their 2,000th march on Thursday.

The march turned into a large political rally, as thousands of people representing different political groups swarmed onto the Plaza de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires to show support for the human rights organization, a week after its longtime leader, Hebe de Bonafini, was almost arrested by police officers who attempted to misrepresent a search warrant.

Many were not only there to honor the Mothers; but also in protest against President Mauricio Macri and several officials in his right-wing administration, whose recent public statements downplaying the Dirty War - as well as meetings with prominent Dirty War apologists such as Alicia Pando - have offended the majority of the human rights community.

“It wasn’t a ‘dirty war,’ it was state terrorism and genocide,” said one placard. “We aren’t 30,000, we are a million,” said another. Chants of “Macri, you are trash, you are the dictatorship,” swept through the crowd at various times during the march.

Bonafini, 87, is one of a shrinking number of original Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who first held their iconic Thursday march on April 30, 1977. Three of its founders - Azucena Villaflor de Vicenti, María Ponce de Bianco, and Esther Ballestrino de Careaga - were themselves "disappeared" that December, their bodies disposed of in one of the death flights over the Río de la Plata bay.

Joined on different occasions by renowned human rights leaders such as 1980 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón, and Swedish actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Liv Ullmann, the iconic marches continued until, on January 14, 2006, Bonafini suspended them because "the enemy is no longer in the Casa Rosada."

The marches were suspended after President Néstor Kirchner rescinded all amnesty laws passed between 1986 and 2001 to shield those implicated in the Dirty War from prosecution. From 2003 to 2015, 2,389 officers were charged and 681 were convicted. This marked the fist time in world history that human rights abuses were systematically prosecuted (rather than a few top officials). General Jorge Videla, the dictator who oversaw most of the Dirty War, described the Kirchner era as "our worst moments."

The election of President Mauricio Macri, who as Mayor of Buenos Aires had vetoed a law granting witness protection to those testifying in Dirty War trials and referred to human rights as a "scam" during the 2015 campaign, led Bonafini to conclude that "the enemy has returned," however, and the marches were resumed on December 11.

The pace of prosecutions slowed dramatically after Macri took office. These changes was further underscored by Defense Minister Julio Martínez's decision to allow Dirty War convicts to be treated in military hospitals, and by efforts on the part of the new Army Chief of Staff Diego Suñer to have those over age 70 granted house arrest (50 Dirty War convicts have been granted house arrest so far this year). Both policies had been banned due to a number of escape attempts.

“It’s brutal and very painful,” Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo President Estela Barnes de Carlotto said about these policy changes. “But it doesn’t weaken us. For months we’ve been rejecting what they’ve been saying and doing with all their orders.”

This sentiment was echoed not only by left-wing and Kirchnerist attendees; but also by centrists such as UCR lawmaker Leopoldo Moreau (whose party is the junior partner in Macri's "Let's Change" coalition). “Macri's endgame is amnesty,” Moreau warned. “His provocations, statements, and attempts to detain Bonafini are all designed to marginalize the issue and ultimately lay the groundwork for amnesty.”

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel advised Macri to learn from his mistakes and not create further tension. “It’s worrisome that the president first says he doesn’t know what happened and then starts to speak of a ‘dirty war.’ There wasn’t a war; there was a brutal repression against clergy, social workers, unions, students, and even babies,” he said.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/219763/mothers-of-the-plaza-de-mayo-celebrate-timely-2000th-rally

A brief news clip from the event: http://www.msn.com/en-us/music/watch/argentinas-mothers-embark-on-their-2000th-march-for-their-missing-children/vp-BBvy76r

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