When U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in Argentina on Tuesday, it seemed like an opportune, if not essential, moment to acknowledge the U.S. role in the bloodbath that occurred 40 years ago.
In 1976 the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew Isabel Peron, would be the starting point of years of violence in which 30,000 Argentines were disappeared and countless others murdered and tortured under Operation Condor.
Throughout the communist-cleansing program condoned and funded by the U.S., with Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State, innumerable atrocities were committed by the military, including the practice of giving the children of the deceased and disappeared to more favorable families.
Campaign groups, like the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, still fight for justice and look for their stolen grandchildren.
But on the eve of this sensitive and commemorative day, when Argentines remember their lost ones, Obama did not apologize for the misery dished out by the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, the U.S. president was dismissive during a joint press conference with Argentine President Mauricio Macri.
IN DEPTH: Obama Visits Argentina
“I don’t want to go through every action carried out by the U.S. in Latin America over the last 100 years. I suspect everybody here already knows,” President Obama stated in response to a question about the role of U.S. foreign policy during the Argentine dictatorship-era. He referred to the U.S. policy of backing regimes that tortured, murdered and disappeared tens of thousands as “counterproductive.”
Obama continued that he believed the U.S. administration had improved over the years due to engaging in “self-criticism.”
“There is no shortage of self-criticism in the United States. Certainly no shortage of criticism of its President or its government or its foreign policy,” he told reporters.
But, after the comment branded “insufficient” by Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Obama essentially told Argentina that the U.S. had learned from and washed its hands of its destructive history.
“And we have learned some of the lessons that we may not have fully learned at an earlier time. And I think our experiences with a country like Argentina helped us to develop that more mature and, ultimately, I think, more successful approach to foreign policy,” he said.
Just as the leader of the world’s most powerful country failed to acknowledge or apologize for the suffering caused by the illegal blockade on Cuba on his recent visit, Obama did not ask the Argentine people for forgiveness for the grief his country caused them. As a spokesperson for the U.S., on the eve of Argentina’s most painful day, there was an expectation that he would speak up.
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