The Argentine Army published on social networks a tribute to the deaths of Second Lieutenant Hernán Berdina and Conscript Soldier Ismael Maldonado during the Combat of « Potrero Negro » in 1975. However, a few hours later the tweet was deleted and this aroused a strong controversy.

The tribute was less intense compared to the one carried out in 2019 and since The force, led today by Brigadier General Agustín Cejas, it was considered appropriate to recall the date with the publication of an evocative institutional tweet.

The sober and concise military message caused an unusual repudiation by organizations related to human rights and even from the organization “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo”, lapidary messages of disapproval were issued and they sought to obtain the conviction of the President of the Nation himself, who even the moment remained unrelated to controversy.

The Army Chief General Agustín Cejas at the center of the controversy

In September 1975 the Monte 28 Infantry Regiment was deployed in Tucuman territory in compliance with the military operations ordered by the decree that the then Constitutional President of the Nation, María Estela Martínez de Perón, had signed with the aim of neutralizing the actions of the guerrillas that had taken up arms against the authorities that governed the country.

In this context, in the Tucuman mountains there were numerous combats against irregular troops that had perched in the region. The political authorities of the time framed the military action under the name of « Operative Independence. » During the day of that fateful September 5, Berdina – a young 22-year-old Second Lieutenant who was serving his first assignment in the unit – together with Conscript Maldonado and another group of soldiers returned to the rear after having completed a patrol being ambushed by a faction of the ERP (People’s Revolutionary Army) in the vicinity of the place known as “Potrero Negro.” Berdina ordered Maldonado to accompany him and, taking a detour, they surpassed the section of regular troops repelling the attack. As a result of the insurgent fire, Maldonado dies in the place while Berdina arrives seriously wounded at the military hospital in Tucumán where he dies moments later.

This military action was always considered an act totally removed from any circumstance that could be related to illegal repression. for which they have been and are currently judged officers and NCOs of the Armed Forces and FFSS as well as various former civil servants. In fact, in the province of Tucuman there is a town that for many years bears the name of « Teniente Berdina » and another that of « Soldado Maldonado ». Both soldiers are regularly remembered by the local community and their figures enjoy high prestige throughout the province.

Both the President and the Minister of Defense are in good agreement with the armed forces

In the last hours and before the growing malaise generated by the tribute in networks, at the request of the Ministry of Defense the Army appealed to the same social network to announce that it was proceeding with the withdrawal of the tribute since many people had been offended. The institution also clarified that the initiative had the sole purpose of « remembering two dead soldiers. »

At this point and from the other end of the ideological arc, there were not a few military and civilians who condemned the removal of the original post. Thus, for example, the renowned jurist and former Counselor of the Magistracy Alejandro Fargosi ​​and always through the same social network said. « This is true? ¿Did the Army delete a tweet honoring fallen soldiers doing their duty?  » Later the lawyer addressed the Army authorities stating “They did not die of natural causes. They were two soldiers killed by terrorists. They fulfilled their duty to defend the country until they lost their lives”. In the same vein, many retired soldiers judged the decision to back down with the posting as « unfortunate ». « If we cannot defend the memory of our fallen in combat, we cannot defend anyone. »

A senior Army source told Infobae that « Since 2018, the armed forces have been authorized to honor their fallen in legitimate acts of service. An armed confrontation in the Tucuman mountain or the defense of the occupation of a barracks are. Last year a very emotional tribute was made and awards were given and no one seemed upset by it. They were two young people who were carrying out orders emanating from constitutional authorities and, furthermore, no one currently ordered that this type of tribute be suspended « 

The Chief of the Army Claudio Pasqualini Honoring soldiers who died in combat in the 70s (Adrián Escandar)

During the afternoon of this Monday, insistent rumors circulated about an imminent displacement of the Chief of the Army due to the strong unrest that he had generated within the ruling coalition. « The issuance of a message of this type implies that no press officer would have dared to upload it to the networks without the consent of the maximum leadership. » Those consulted slipped. Despite the response that Infobae received from the environment of Minister Agustín Rossi was forceful. « That scenario or anything like it was never planned. » Others Military spokesmen indicated that the government is willing to support the chiefs that the President himself elected, except if one of them committed acts of institutional gravity.

It is worth remembering that within the tasks carried out by the armed forces in the framework of the “Manuel Belgrano” operation to support civil society in the fight against COVID-19, the Argentine Army is the main protagonist by virtue of being the force with greater deployment in the national territory. In this context, there have been few occasions in which both Minister Rossi and the President of the Nation himself have expressed their satisfaction with the military action. « These men have nothing to do with the dictatorship, they entered training schools in full democracy. It is time to turn the page of history, » Fernández said in Campo de Mayo before hundreds of troops. they were worth a displeasure with some of the references of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, they were repeated in less controversial ways on several occasions.

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