In December 1976 the Argentine military dictatorship announced that twenty-two political prisoners had been killed while attempting to escape. Human rights organizations subsequently proved that in fact, they were helpless victims of a firing squad. Although the army has in recent years acknowledged that this presumed skirmish in a remote town in the north of Argentina was a fabrication, it persistently refuses to disclose who took part in the executions. One of the participants in this massacre, according to an Argentine human rights group, was a young captain named Ricardo Brinzoni. Twenty-five years later Gen. Ricardo Brinzoni is chief of staff of the army. Recently, Brinzoni named a lawyer, Juan Enrique Torres Bande, as the army’s legal representative. The Jewish community brought forward proof that this lawyer is a top leader of Argentina’s largest Nazi party.
This year, General Brinzoni has tried to have the government enlist the army’s assistance in repressing social protests, almost twenty years after the return of democracy did away with that role for the armed forces. To advance this policy he has been attempting to show that the army has been democratized. He has sent feelers out to victims of the dictatorship and families of the disappeared seeking their good will.
One of his first such attempts was an invitation to me to speak to a conference for army officers. Tactically, I was an ideal candidate: a reasonably prestigious journalist, director of a human rights organization, Jewish and, most important, the son of Jacobo Timerman, the best-known victim of the dictatorship.
I declined his invitation because, before aspiring to a dialogue, the military men responsible for the atrocities committed, particularly the commander in chief of the army, must stop refusing to submit to the justice system. I wrote my letter of rejection (see below) speaking as a Jew, to repudiate his anti-Semitic connections. His reply, which came as no surprise to me, illegally defined the army as a Christian institution and quoted part of Portia’s speech from The Merchant of Venice, a reproach to the arrogant and vengeful Shylock. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has since expressed its “profound displeasure” with this reply, pointing out that in Shakespeare’s play “the Jewish character personifies greed and inhuman feelings.”
General Brinzoni, a violator of human rights and an anti-Semite, seeks to repeat the past. Unfortunately, he can rely on the protection of President Eduardo Duhalde.
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Buenos Aires, May 8, 2002
To: Gen. Ricardo Brinzoni
Commander in Chief of the Army
I have received your courteous invitation to address the XI Institutional Communications Course to be held in the Army High Command. I must confess that the simple fact of receiving a letter from the army caused a deep shudder to go through me. The last time that the institution you now head got in touch with my family was in 1977 in a letter addressed to my mother, which justified the confinement of her husband on the grounds that the army believed he was “engaged in subversion.”
There is little that you do not know or that I can add about the suffering and injustice inflicted on my father from the night a group of people broke into our home identifying themselves as members of the army and proceeded to abduct him. I expect that my father’s ordeal was similar to that undergone by thousands of people abducted illegally. My father was tortured, subjected to mock firing squads, humiliated and forced to witness the rape and torture of other prisoners. On top of this, because he was Jewish, he had to endure torture sessions accompanied by Nazi hymns and mockery while they used an electric prod on his circumcised penis. In other words, atrocities typical of anti-Semitic beasts. For hours, former Colonel Ramón Camps, together with other army officers, interrogated him about “sinister Zionist plots to take over Argentina” in a room where the only “decoration” was a portrait of Adolf Hitler.