While the images from this week focused on the very public ways in which the military dictatorship of 1976-1983 is remembered in Argentina even today, they are not the only examples of public commemoration of those who died at the hands of state agents in Argentina. Below are a series of plaques on the Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires. The plaques memorialize those individuals who died from police violence during the economic turmoil of late-2001.
After years of neoliberal policies that dated back to the military dictatorship of 1976-1983 that resulted in massive unemployment and bouts of hyperinflation, society was already outraged. The final straw was when president Alejandro de la Rua announced what basically amounted to a freeze on all withdrawals from banks (people could technically take out $250) in order to prevent a run on banks. Outraged, the people took to the streets in 2001 to protest the economic policies of neoliberalism, banks’ and international lending organizations’ practices, and the government’s policies. De la Rua declared a state of emergency and authorized increased police presence and response in Buenos Aires. On the night of December 20, 2001, the confrontations between police and protesters boiled over, and police killed at least five people protesting at the Plaza de Mayo in front of the presidential palace (where the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo had spent years marching to protest the disappearance of their children during the military dictatorship). In the wake of massive protests and violence, de la Rua resigned and left Argentina on December 21, 2001, throwing the country further into turmoil. Ultimately, Argentina regained stability economically and politically during the presidencies of Eduardo Duhalde (2002-2003) and Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007). De la Rua faced numerous lawsuits for his role in the violence of 2001, but the court system threw out more substantial charges of homicide.
While Argentina regained stability, the evidence of those who died in the protests of December 2001 are still evident on the streets. Below are a handful of plaques along the Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires marking the sites where people were killed, and they range from near the presidential palace (at one end of the Avenue) down to the Congressional building (at the other end of the avenue). While they remained there in 2007, it was clear that they were not fully approved by all sectors of society. The plaque memorializing Gustavo Benedetto was next to another that clearly had been destroyed, with a message commenting that the police had originally destroyed the plaque late at night. In spite of their efforts, the memories of those murdered on December 20 live on not only among their surviving family members, but in the public memory embodied in these sites of remembrance on the streets of Buenos Aires.