New Pope Faces Old Accusations in Argentina’s Dirty War
The photographs in the battered leather suitcase are all Estela del la Cuadra has left. Gingerly, she lifts them from the suitcase and lays them face-up like playing cards, atop a faded hand-written letter.
Stabbing a finger at pictures on her kitchen table she says, “The junta abducted seven of my family members, you see six pictures here, but my sister Elena was five months pregnant at the time. They came into the house, took all of my possessions, my washing machine, even my son’s bike.”
Beneath the pictures, the letter in faded blue ink, features the remarkably neat script of Pope Francis, then Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was head of the Jesuit order of Argentina.
The letter is one of several documents that de la Cuadra and other human rights activists say shows that Bergoglio, as head of the Jesuits, may have turned a blind eye to some atrocities, then later denied knowing about those atrocities despite his own testimony to the contrary and that ultimately as head of the catholic church in Argentina, he did little to open the church’s archives to reveal the truth about its complicity.
The testimony of Argentine war criminals in tribunals showed that catholic priests and chaplains played a central role in the torture and murder of dissidents by blessing torture chambers and absolving troops of their sins after they had thrown dozens of bound and drugged dissidents from a plane into the 50-mile-wide Rio de la Plata.
De La Cuadra’s family were among thousands that were wiped out. The military junta that ruled this country from 1976 to 1983 allegedly “disappeared” up to 30,000 accused leftist dissidents. Many were tortured and then dropped from airplanes into the Rio de la Plata.