BY JON HILLSON AND JENNY BENTON
MINNEAPOLIS - Her head covered in the traditional white scarf of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Evel de Petrini beamed a smile as she fielded a question about the stance of the Argentine group toward Cuba. "We are 100 percent in solidarity with Cuba," she said on March 5, to the applause of the majority of nearly 200 students at a University of Minnesota meeting.
"Why does a big country like the United States pick on such a little country like Cuba? What threat does it pose? Why doesn't the United States let Cuba live in peace? Because of what the Cubans think," said de Petrini, whose child was "disappeared" by Argentina's military dictatorship during the infamous "dirty war" of the late 1970s.
De Petrini and Elsa de Manzotti, another member of the organization, are currently touring the United States. In Minnesota they also spoke to crowds of 400 at St. Olaf College and 250 at the Resource Center of the Americas. The majority of the nearly 900 people who attended the meetings were young women.
The group takes its name from weekly Thursday marches that mothers of disappeared children have made in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires for the past 19 years. The group is seeking justice for 30,000 activists and other workers and students slain by the regime.
The massive brutality, de Petrini said, "was prepared in the United States, at the School of the Americas. The torture was prepared here, the rapes were prepared here, the killing was prepared here."
The dictatorship "bought the guns, the tanks, the weapons, and the bombs from the United States and it borrowed money in the United States to pay for it. So now we have a huge debt [to U.S. banks] that is immoral and unpayable.
"Tell the [U.S.] government," de Petrini urged the students, "to cancel this debt."
The two activists detailed the refusal of the civilian governments that replaced the military tyranny to prosecute those who planned and executed the mass kidnappings and executions.
"So today," de Petrini said, "the murderers are back in the government," preparing more repression." As proof, the mothers showed a documentary of student protests, and cop and army repression, in La Plata, Argentina, on February 20.
Television cameras captured the image of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo leader Hebe de Bonafini being struck by a cop. Army troops and unidentified plainclothes goons are shown beating journalists and shooting rubber bullets into crowds of students running out of clouds of tear gas.
The mothers group had come to the aid of the students, who were protesting government assaults on public education. The demonstrations resulted in the release of 200 arrested student activists.
For more information on the itinerary of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, call Speak Out at (510) 601-0182.
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