Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Production values

"El caso Patti" is a new prosecution launched over crimes committed during the dictatorship (1976-83). Amnesty laws were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2005 and prosecutions have begun of military and police officials involved in disappearances and torture.

Key players in the "caso Patti" narrative include

  • An important witness named Luis Gerez, a bricklayer who says that in the '70s he was tortured by Luis Patti. As he prepared to testify last week, Gerez was allegedly kidnapped and threatened with death. He was released 48 hours later.
  • The president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner
  • A chorus of Kirchner's political opponents who say that last week's kidnapping of Gerez was staged. They note that it's awfully convenient that Gerez re-appeared alive about 15 minutes after the president gave a rare televised speech to the nation to emphasize his commitment to justice and to say that he would not be intimidated.
Kidnapping, torture, politics. Nothing new but it certainly has people riled up.

But where is the outrage over the production values of the president's speech? They are mind-blowingly dated to the eyes of a U.S. audience.

When the president of the United States addresses the nation from the Oval Office, he looks directly into the camera, right? Of course, he's reading from the teleprompter, but on some level we all have the illusion that he's looking us in the eye, not just reading from some script.

In this video, Kirchner spends more time looking at his notes than at the camera. He looks like a schoolboy giving his 4th-grade book report. It's really quite jarring.

Beyond his awkward on-air presence, Kirchner is a googly-eyed beanpole of a man who, because of the way he looks, could not be elected dog catcher in most places in the United States.

But maybe all this misses the point.

A witness in another human rights case -- Julio López -- has been missing for months now. "Witness" is a bit of an odd term to use, because it's not as if he happened to passively witness the kidnapping of someone else. He's a witness in a human rights case because he was kidnapped and held for two and a half years during the dictatorship and is expected to provide testimony against his kidnappers.

It's a disturbing cycle of kidnapping and torture that started under a dictatorship and is repeating itself under a democracy. If the kidnapping and release of Gerez truly was a political maneuver to distract from the fact that López is still missing, then that's depressing.

Either way, you can look at Julio López and ask yourself:

What if you were someone who had been kidnapped twice -- once under a dictatorship when you were held for two and a half years, and then again 30 years later in a democracy when you were 77 years old and you thought your kidnappers were finally going to have their day in court?

No comments: