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  • Writer's pictureAanya M.

Los Desaparecidos (The Disappeared)

Despite the years that have passed since your disappearance, your absence is felt as if it were yesterday. Those sky-blue eyes that we still see, that noble, tenacious heart with which you are remembered. Your beautiful gaze will not be returned to us, that is certain, and neither will that heart, but your fight was not in vain Dani…How many moments they took from us together... they won't come back…”

The excerpt above was written in a blog titled Daniel Crosta, made by his family, in an effort to mourn his disappearance. On September 14, 1979, Daniel Crosta was forced to disappear by Argentina's military dictatorship.

“Disappearances” have come to be regarded as crimes against humanity practiced by abusive governments. Used in many Latin American regimes supported by the United States, governments target those thought to be a political or ideological threat. This method originated in Nazi Germany, under Adolf Hitler, in his Nacht und Nebel Erlass (Night and Fog Decree).

In 1976, the Argentine military, the junta, overthrew the government of Isabel Perón, the widow of populist president Juan Perón. It was part of Operation Condor, a more extensive series of political takeovers that the US sponsored and supported. The military dictatorship that resulted called itself the “Process of National Reorganization,” or “Proceso,” and dubbed its activities the Dirty War. Argentina was at war with itself. The junta labeled left-wing activists “terrorists” and kidnapped and killed an estimated 30,000 people.

They became referred to as "the missing," or Desaparecidos. The government did not make any attempt to locate or document the Desaparecidos. The junta could effectively deny their existence by "disappearing" them and disposing of their bodies. However, the friends and family of the missing were aware of their existence. They were aware of the "death flights" in which dead people were dumped into water bodies. They had heard reports of torture and rape taking place in holding facilities.

Infants born to expectant mothers who were held alive only long enough to give birth to their infants before being killed were included among the Desaparecidos. It is believed that some 500 of the kids, along with others who were taken from their parents during the Dirty War, were handed to other homes.

The Dirty War has been over since the military junta gave up power and agreed to democratic elections in 1983. Since then, nearly 900 former members of the junta have been tried and convicted of crimes, many involving human rights abuses.

Such disappearances occur all over Latin America. In September 1973 a coup supported by the US government, Salvador Allende, the president of Chile, was overthrown, and Gen. Augusto Pinochet assumed power. As a ruthless dictator, Pinochet sought to terrorize anybody who opposed him. Journalists, politicians, celebrities, and anybody else who openly opposed him were known to suddenly disappear. In Santiago, the nation's capital, many were eventually discovered dead in ditches or alleyways, while others were never located. Pinochet frequently used the National Stadium as a secret detention center where he rounded up those who opposed him and tortured or killed them. During his 17-year rule, almost 40,000 individuals were tortured, and at least 3,200 died or disappeared. Only 310 of the forcibly disappeared have been identified and estimates for those still missing range from 1109 to 1469 people.

Many more countries including El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, and Nicaragua have engaged in forced disappearances. All of which are committed by regimes supported by the United States. The United States is to blame for thousands of families mourning, not knowing what has happened to their relatives.

As I’m writing this United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN Working Group) has recorded more than 59,000 cases of enforced disappearances across 110 countries since 1980, including 651 new cases originating in 30 countries in its most recent annual report. Forced disappearances are one of the worst crimes against humanity, which are rarely talked about.

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