But Videla, now 86, put the death toll much lower during his comments last week. Revealing details of the human rights violations of which he refused to speak while on trial, he told an Argentine journalist from his cell that “there was no other solution” to the disappearances. “It was the price we had to pay to win the war against [Communist] subversion,” he said.
“We don't care what he says. He’s a murderer,” says Claudia San Martín, one of the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an association of women whose children were disappeared by the dictatorship. Mrs. San Martín’s son, Carlos José, was 19 when he was taken by the state in 1977. His body was never found.
The mothers commemorate the 35th anniversary of their fight for justice next week and, despite their age – Mrs. San Martín is 82 – every Thursday they march in the Plaza de Mayo, the square opposite the presidential palace in Buenos Aires. “We have more strength every day,” says Mrs. San Martín after taking part in the march, a white shawl – the symbol of the mothers – draped around her head.
Videla has been criticized by the mothers in the past for having shown no remorse. “These latest comments are worthy of the doctrine that he’s always advocated:” remorseless justification of his crimes, says Cecilia Medina, a former judge at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and professor at the University of Chile – where similar violations occurred under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.