U.S. President Barack Obama declared the start of a new chapter in U.S.-Argentina relations during his visit to Buenos Aires this week, pledging to “rebuild trust” between the countries after years of tension (NYT). Obama praised Argentine President Mauricio Macri for swiftly enacting economic reforms (Buenos Aires Herald). Obama’s visit coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the military coup that began Argentina’s “Dirty War,” an era of military rule that resulted in the deaths and disappearances of as many as thirty thousand people, according to rights groups. Obama announced he would release long-classified U.S. military and intelligence documents related to that period to shed more light on what the United States knew of the military dictatorship’s crackdowns (Bloomberg).
“The biggest effect of Obama’s decision, though, may have less to do with specific revelations than with a broader move toward transparency. On Saturday, after a meeting with Pope Francis—himself the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires—Bishop Carlos Malfa, a high-ranking Argentine cleric, announced that the Vatican will release its own classified records on the dictatorship. Historians have established the Catholic Church’s links to and support of the Argentine military during its reign of terror. For decades, Church authorities have refused to acknowledge the role they played in those years; on several occasions, they have hinted at the need for ‘reconciliation,’ a coded reference to amnesty,” writes Graciela Mochkofsky for the New Yorker.
“As leftist governments in Latin America teeter, Argentina recognizes itsopportunity to become the regional leader and its most firmly committed reformer. Indeed, the size of the Foreign Ministry’s North American department has doubled since Macri took power—from three professionals to six—but it is overwhelmed with work. All of the government agencies tasked with North American affairs—from security to statistics—have been in overdrive for the Obama visit. Now it is up to Macri’s government to maintain the momentum,” writes Amy Kaslow for Fortune.
“An acknowledgment of the malign role the United States played in the early years of the dictatorship is welcome, if overdue. But to ignore the red flags on human rights raised by the recent actions of Argentina’s new ruling party is a worrying reminder of that legacy. For Mr. Macri, Mr. Obama’s visit is already an endorsement,” write Gaston Chillier and Ernesto Seman for the New York Times.
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