September 12, 1997

Argentine ``dirty warrior'' says his face carved

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 12 (Reuter) - A former navy captain whose horrific revelations forced Argentina's military to make unprecedented apologies for its ``Dirty War'' crimes said he was slashed in the face by attackers telling him to keep quiet.

Adolfo Scilingo told a late-night television program on Thursday that hours earlier four men with police identification had ordered him off a central Buenos Aires street into a car. They carved into his face the initials of three well-known journalists he had spoken to.

Local newspapers on Friday published photographs of the moustachioed Scilingo with the letter ``M'' slashed into his forehead, and ``G'' and ``V'' cut into his cheeks.

In 1995, Scilingo became the first military officer to describe how he had participated in the notorious ``death flights'' in which hundreds of suspected leftists were disposed of by being dumped over the Atlantic in the 1970s.

Human rights groups say 30,000 people died in the 1976-1983 military junta's vicious secret war against leftist guerrillas, and the government has accounted for almost 15,000 who were murdered or disappeared in secret torture centers.

Scilingo's shocking revelations shamed military chiefs into making public apologies for the forces' past crimes, although President Carlos Menem has publicly labeled him a troublemaker and noted his criminal record for fraud.

Scilingo, who like all officers convicted of ``Dirty War'' crimes has been stripped of his rank, said he thought his attackers were corrupt police worried about documents he had sent to the government.



September 17, 1997

Menem hits out at New York Times over editorial

By Stephen Brown

BUENOS AIRES (Reuter) - Argentine President Carlos Menem accused the New York Times on Wednesday of printing a ``blatant lie'' by saying in an editorial that he ``seems to be encouraging violence'' against his critics.

The Peronist leader said the harshly worded comment, headlined ``War Against the Media in Argentina,'' was part of a dirty tricks campaign tied to October's midterm elections for Congress, a key test for presidential elections in 1999.

``This is a blatant lie produced by bad information which -- and I can discuss this with the heads of The New York Times when they want -- is information transmitted from Argentina in the middle of an election campaign,'' Menem told local radio.

The editorial was published Tuesday but not translated into Spanish in the local press until Wednesday.

It said Menem ``publicly called for physical assaults'' on journalists -- a reference to his arguments last week in favor of checks on the freedom of the press. Menem quoted Benjamin Franklin as recommending a vigorous defense against press abuses but did not actively suggest violence on reporters.

The Times also said there were ``indications'' of government involvement in an attack on a former navy officer who has gone public with accounts of crimes committed during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

Former Capt. Adolfo Scilingo was attacked last week by four men using police identification who carved three letters into his face, standing for the names of three top journalists he had talked to about ``Dirty War'' torture and murder.

Scilingo linked his attackers with the national and Buenos Aires provincial governments. In 1995 his first confessions that he had taken part in ``death flights'' triggered a spate of apologies by the armed forces for Dirty War crimes.

Menem said last week the attack was regrettable but people like Scilingo ``inspire me with no confidence at all.''

The Times' protest was echoed by Human Rights Watch/Americas, which sent Menem a letter expressing concern over the attack on Scilingo, demanding protection for journalists and questioning Menem's comments on the freedom of the press.

Its director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, wrote of his ``deepest concern'' over Menem's use of ``a quote from Benjamin Franklin from more than 250 years ago proposing the use of violence to limit freedom of expression.''

The New York Times editorial put the attack in the context of the brutal murder in January of news photographer Jose Luis Cabezas, which is still unsolved. A controversial tycoon with links to the government has been investigated in connection with the murder but has not been charged.

The Times said Menem had ``stunted'' Argentine democracy with attacks on the press.