BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentines in the hometown of former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla are upset at the prospect that he may be buried there.
Videla died Friday at age 87 while serving a life term for crimes against humanity for his leadership of a bloody junta from 1976 to 1983. Authorities said Wednesday that his family has yet to arrange his burial in the municipal cemetery in Mercedes, where the Videlas have two family crypts.
But even the prospect of receiving his remains is upsetting people in the town more than an hour west of Argentina's capital, where many are determined to repudiate the junta that officially killed more than 13,000 citizens nationwide.
They've put up banners outside the cemetery's two entrances honoring the 22 townspeople who were kidnapped by the dictatorship's death squads and never seen again. And they planned a major protest Wednesday night to take a stand against everything Videla stood for.
"We can't do anything at all" to prevent Videla's burial in the Mercedes cemetery, the town's human rights secretary, Marcelo Melo, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "But we cannot act in the same way the military dictatorship acted, which has not permitted the families of the disappeared to have a place to go cry our mourn for their loved ones."
The cemetery also holds the remains of a number of townspeople whose bodies were found after they were killed by the dictatorship, including some of the five Pallotine churchmen who were shot in their parish house by federal forces in became known as the "Saint Patrick's Massacre" in 1976. Those killings sent a message that not even Catholic priests were safe in Videla's Argentina if they were seen to be challenging the government.