Mar 242018

Today is the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice (Día de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia), a public holiday in Argentina, commemorating the victims of the Dirty War. It is held on 24th March because that is the anniversary of the coup d’état of 1976 that brought the National Reorganization Process to power.

President Juan Perón died on July 1, 1974. He was succeeded by his wife María Estela Martínez de Perón, affectionately called “Isabelita.” Despite her claim as the country’s rightful ruler, María rapidly lost political influence and power. A group of military officials, organized by Perón himself to aide María, took control in an effort to revitalize Argentina’s deteriorating political and social climate. This shift in governance paved the way for the ensuing coup. The involvement of the US and France in financing and supporting the coup was kept secret for decades, but has now come to light. The blood of tens of thousands of desaparecidos is on the hands of the CIA. I have not the slightest doubt that if I had lived in Buenos Aires at the time, I would have been counted among them. 

The coup in Argentina was part of a much broader strategic political policy of the CIA in Latin America known as Operation Condor, whose purpose was to encourage takeovers by far-right regimes and to bolster them while in power. The torture and murder of intellectuals and dissidents was explicitly condoned, and many of the assassinations of opponents to the governments were ordered directly by the CIA. Operation Condor was planned in 1968, and was officially implemented in 1975.

Condor’s key members were the governments in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. Most of the members of the Juntas have now been convicted of crimes against humanity and genocide. A series of declassified documents from the US State Department reveal the leading role of the CIA. The largest secret operation on a continental scale, a component of Operation Condor, was Operation Central America, deployed from 1977 to 1984. The CIA was restricted from covert operations in Latin America under Jimmy Carter, president from 1977 to 1981. According to Duane Clarridge, head of the CIA at the time, the Argentine military regime, which was little more than a puppet of the CIA, was funded to do the “dirty” work that the CIA was not allowed to conduct by Carter. The Argentine dictatorship carried out CIA operations in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, including an Argentine military landing in Central America as an outside legionary force.

The military coup in Argentina in 1976 was coordinated and funded by the CIA as a key stage in having a compliant military regime in the region. Shortly before 01:00 am on March 24th, president Martínez de Perón was detained in Buenos Aires. At 03:10 all television and radio stations were interrupted. Regular transmissions were cut and replaced by a military march, after which the first communiqué was broadcast:

People are advised that as of today, the country is under the operational control of the Joint Chiefs General of the Armed Forces. We recommend to all inhabitants strict compliance with the provisions and directives emanating from the military, security or police authorities, and to be extremely careful to avoid individual or group actions and attitudes that may require drastic intervention from the operating personnel.

A state of siege and martial law were implemented, as military patrolling spread to every major city. The morning was seemingly uneventful, but as the day progressed, the detentions multiplied. Hundreds of workers, unionists, students, and political activists were abducted from their homes, their workplaces, or in the streets. State terrorism in Argentina continued until the democratic government of Raúl Alfonsín was elected to office in 1983. It organized the National Commission CONADEP to investigate crimes committed during the Dirty War and heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses and began to develop cases against offenders. It organized a tribunal to conduct prosecution of offenders and in 1985 the Trial of the Juntas was held. The top military officers of all the juntas were among the nearly 300 people prosecuted and the top men were all convicted and sentenced for their crimes. At the time, Argentina was the only Latin American example of the government conducting such trials.

Threatening another coup, the military opposed subjecting more of its personnel to such trials. It forced through passage by the legislature of Ley de Punto Final (Full Stop Law) in 1986, which ended prosecutions for crimes under the dictatorship. Fearing military uprisings, Argentina’s first two presidents after the Dirty War sentenced only the top two ex commanders and, even then, very leniently. The Ley de Punto Final provided amnesty to Dirty War acts, arguing that torturers were only doing their “jobs” (the defense of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg). President Carlos Menem praised the military in their “fight against subversion.”

In 2003, Congress repealed the Pardon Laws and in 2005 the Argentine Supreme Court ruled they were unconstitutional. In 2006, under Nestor Kirchner, the government re-opened investigations and began prosecutions again of the crimes against humanity committed by military and security officers. Its 2006 sentencing of Miguel Etchecolatz (Director of Intelligence for the Buenos Aires Provincial Police) for conviction on numerous charges of kidnapping, torture and murder. Argentine courts condemned the 1970s Junta members for crimes against humanity and genocide of political dissidents. Some of these trials are still in progress, and many Argentinos are still seeking information concerning the fate of their family members – in particular, Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Association of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) whose children were among those “disappeared” by the Junta.

The commemoration of this date was sanctioned as Law 25633 by the Argentine National Congress on 1st August 2002 and promulgated by the Executive Branch on 22nd August of the same year. However, it was not implemented as a public national holiday until 2006. The 30th and 40th anniversaries of the coup were marked by massive demonstrations on this date. Argentina is still waiting for an apology from the US for its part in the Dirty War. Probably be a while.

I have given recipes for pretty much all the well-known dishes of Argentina so it’s time to branch out to some lesser known regional recipes. Chipás are a favorite of mine from northeastern Argentina. They were originally a simple form of bread made from cassava flour by the indigenous Guaraní, but after Spanish colonization cheese was added to the dough to make them as they are now. There are numerous varieties. Standard chipás are shaped into small balls, but they can also be baked into doughnut shapes or larger buns that may be called chipa’í or chipacitos. These are sold in small bags by street sellers in both cities and small towns. Other common variants include the chipá caburé or chipá mbocá (cooked around a stick) and the chipa so’ó, filled with ground meat. There are other varieties of chipa with different ingredients; chipa manduvi (made with a mix of corn flour and peanut), chipá avatí and chipa rora (made of the skin of the seed of corn after being strained, like a whole-wheat bread). Flavorings, such as anise seeds can also be added. The cassava flour is essential and you may have to order it online. Mozzarella is a common cheese used as well as other locally produced cheeses.



1 lb cassava flour
½ cup butter
4 eggs, beaten
½ lb melting cheese , grated
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk


Preheat the oven to 420˚F/200˚C.

Mix the butter and the eggs in a stand mixer until they are well combined. Add the grated cheese and mix.

Dissolve the salt in the milk. Add to the mixture. Then, add the cassava flour slowly and continue mixing until a dough forms.

Knead the dough on a floured board and then place it in a bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Pinch off pieces about the size of a golf ball, roll them with your palms into regular balls and place them, about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly golden.