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THOUSANDS of Argentinians have marched in protest at the country’s militarisation, fearing a new decree will take it back to the repression of the dictatorship era.
The demonstration was organised by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo after President Mauricio Macri issued a decree which will give the country’s military a role in internal security.
They warned that Argentina’s armed forces generate “death, torture and disappearances,” breaching both the country’s constitution and a number of international agreements.
“Human rights organisations reject the reform of the armed forces proposed by the government of Mauricio Macri, which allows the military to intervene in internal security.
“They are mobilising to the Defence Ministry under the slogan: “Repressive armed forces, never again!” said Edgardo Esteban, a spokesman for one of the human rights groups.
Protesters fear a return to the dark days of the military junta with the increased involvement of the military in Argentinian politics.
Under the brutal “National Reorganisation Process” of the 1976-83 military dictatorship, more than 30,000 people disappeared and thousands were killed.
With the country thought to be on the brink of recession, activists are accusing the government of using the armed forces to push through unpopular austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
Mr Macri claimed that the country’s military needed modernisation to tackle new threats.
“We want them to bring a service to the homeland and face the possible conflicts we might have: terrorism, drug-trafficking, cyber-crime,” he said.
He poured scorn on protesters’ fears that Argentina is being militarised again, telling them: “We can't base everything on a tragic and regrettable episode that happened 50 years ago.”
Demonstrations have also been taking place against plans for the development of US military bases across the country.
It is believed that at least three US bases will be established in the provinces of Neuquen, Misiones and Tierra del Fuego, funded by the US Southern Command.
Mr Macri has promised to improve relations with the European Union and the US. Washington agreed last year to develop a strategy with the Argentinian government for closer co-operation on issues of global concern.
While the stated aim of the bases is to protect Argentina’s security, experts suggest that it is part of the US plan for political and military domination of the region.
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