Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1992

Aiwentina is a federal, constitutional democracy with a President, elected throu^
an electoral college for a single 6-year term, a bicameral legislature, and an independent
judiciary. The executive traditionally is the dominant branch at the Federal
level. Since the end of militaiy rule in 1983 there have been two national elections
and numerous midterm elections for Congress and provincial governments. Justicialist
(Peronist) President Carlos Saul Menem marked the halfway point in his
term in 1992.
The President is the constitutional Commander-in-Chief, while a civilian Defense
Minister oversees the armed forces, which underwent significant reduction and organizational
reform in 1992. According to fibres fivm the UjS. Arms Control and
lisarmament Agency, total militaiy expenditures in 1989 were about $1.8 billion.
Government plans call for reduced numbers of armed forces personnel and no real
increases in me current military budget level. There were no instances of militaiy
insubordination against constitutional authority in 1992. The Federal Police report
to the Interior Minister, the Border Police and the Coast Guard to the Defense Minister;
and provincial police are responsible to provincial governors. Police were responsible
for a number of human rights abuses during the year.
Argentina has a mixed agricultural, industrial, and service economy that is strugfling
to overcome low levels of investment in recent years, high production and mareting
costs, tlie failure to seek foreign markets, and a lade of international competitiveness.
The Menem Government undertook an aggressive reform program to reduce
and rationalize the public sector, deregulate many sectors of the economv, and
open the economv to international competition. Ai^gentina's external public oebt of
$62 billion is stiU significant, but in 1992 the Government reached an agreement
with its official creditors in the Paris Club and completed negotiation of^a Brady
Plan restructuring of its debt with its international commercial creditors.
The Aiventine Constitution provides a wide range of freedoms and guarantees.
Neverthekss, institutional weaknesses and the legacy of prior authoritarian governments
sometimes result in the Government's failure both to protect individual ri^ts
strictly and to condemn those who violate them. The number of reported human
rights abuses has declined in recent years. However, during 1992 there continued
to be credible charges of torture and extrajudicial killing by the police, governmental
attempts to infringe on freedom of expression, and the failure of some courts to act
impartially and exi>editiously. There were also incidents of discrimination against
the Jewish community.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing.
^There were no credible reports of politically
motivated killings carried out by government forces in 1992.
However, all^tions arose in 1992 mat two 1991 killings may have been politically
motivated. Family members and colleagues of Radical Party Provincial Deputv
Regino Maders diarged that his death was the result of his investigation into alleged
corruption in privatizing a public utility. The killing of a utility company employee
1 month after Mader's death was also alleged to be connected. Maders' family
members and otiiers involved in the corruption investigation claimed to have received
telephone threats in relation to the reopening of the Maders case. The federal
judge in charge of the new investigation that followed the allegations had not announced
the results of his inquiry by year's end.
The investigation into the cover-up charges arising from the September 1990 rape
and murder of Maria Soledad Morales continued. The original suspect, Guillermo
Luque, was fi«ed by a federal court on January 6, 1993. At the same time, the court
ordered the arrest of another suspect, Luis Tula.
Tliere continued to be credible reports of extrajudicial killings as a result of the
frequent use of excessive force, torture or weapons by the police. Respected human
rights organizations report that police often used deadly force without sufficient
cause. For example, Luis Ernesto Guevosoli was detained by the police in Januaiy
for illegal gambhng. Four days later his body was delivered to his family with the
explanation that he had died, of acquired immunodeficiency sjmdrome (AIDS). The
family opened the coffin and found he had been mutilated: one eye was cut, an ear
slicea ofl, and his fingers amputated. A local judge ordered tm investigation. At
year's end there were no reports of a resolution to tms inquiry.
In another instance, Oscar Roberto Valez was detained by police on suspicion of
rape. The family reported that when they went to visit him in lail he had been badly
beaten. The police later delivered his body to the famUy; a leading human rights
oi^anization rejported that his skull was crushed, three fin^ra were broken, his
knees destroyed and his testicles burned. The loctd criminal judge listed the cause
of death as suicide. At year's end no action had yet been taken by the authorities
in this case. There were numerous other instances of extrtyudicial killings during
the year.
      b. Disappearance.
^There was one unresolved disappearance which may have
been directly attributable to the police or armed forces in 1992. Pablo Cristian
Guardati was aUegedly abducted by four {wlicemen in Mendoza province in May. On
December 22, Guardati's body was found in a group of five other bodies which were
about to be cremated. Guardati's mother identified her son's body despite its advanced
state of deterioration. A Judge cancell^ the cremation and genetic tests will
be run on the body to confirm the mother's identification. A forensic examination
will also be conducted to tiy and determine the cause of death. A witness in the
case testified that she was also kidnaped in August by two policemen and that she
had seen Guardati, alive and wounded, 73 days after his disappearance. A Mendoza
I'udge ordered the arrest of the four suspects in September, chai^ng them with the
udnaping and disappearance. At year's end they were in detention pending the outcome
of the judge's investigation.
There was significant progress in 1992 on disappeared persons, with the partial
resolution of the situation of the children of persons who disappeared during the
1976-83 military dictatorship and who were adopted by other mmilies. This was
made possible by the patient work of The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo"
group and the technique of cross-generational genetic analysis. In July 1992 President
Menem received the group for the first time and agreed to create a special commission
to deal with the problem of the children of disappeared persons.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degradiim Treatment or Punishment.—
The Constitution prohibits torture and the Criminal Code provides penalties for torture
which are similar to those for homicide, 8 to 15 years in prison. Nevertheless,
police brutality—sometimes ending in death or disappearance as noted above, other
times limited to physical abuse—is a continuing ana serious problem, particularly
with regard to younjj men and teena^ boys. As noted in Section l.a., impunity of
the police and intimidation of the judiciary continued to be a problem. Prosecutions,
however, are becoming more common. In September a judge in San Juan province
sentenced three policemen to life imprisonment for torturing and killing a witness
in a homicide case in 1990. Similar^, in August a federal prosecuting attorney requested
life imprisonment for three Cordoba province police officers who aUegedly
tortured and killed Oscar Mario Sargiotti in September 1990.
The excessive use of police force, especiaUy against voung people in ^ater Buenos
Aires, prompted the formation of a 'Commission ofRelatives of Victims of Institutional
Violence." The group, which monitors and denounces cases of police violence,
especially against young people and including abuse, torture, murder and robbeiy,
met with members of the Chamber of Deputies in July to present their case.
Then-Interior Minister Manzano also received the group, and promised to investigate
the 40 or more concrete cases of police abuse documented by the Commission.
He also agreed to upgrade the office in the ministiy that deals with denunciations
of official abuse to that of subsecretariat.
In the wake of these growing protests against police violence in greater Buenos
Aires, in September the government of Buenos Aires province announced the firing
of 800 police officers diaraed with various crimes or omcial misconduct. The provincial
Security Secretary told the press that the measure was justified by the low level
of public confidence in the integrity of the provincial police. At the same time he
announced a 10 to 15 percent salaiy increase for those remaining on the force.
Prisons are overcrowded, with poor medical facilities and a reported inadequacy
of food.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Althoudi Araentina's Penal Code contains
explicit protections of individual rights and places Emits on police arrest and
investigatory powers, these are not always observed nor are meaningful sanctions
imposed upon those who violate them. Most instances of abuse or torture continue
to occur during the early period of detention.
Involuntary exile for poUtical reasons is not permitted by law nor is it practiced
in fact.
e. Denial of a Fair Public Trial.—Ai^gentina's judicial system, while independent
and impartial, is slow and cumbersome in practice. President Menem's appointment
of four additional members to the Supreme Court in 1989 and his subsequent appointment
of another justice to replace a retiree prompted chaives of potential executive
branch influence in court decisions. The Constitution and Penal Code call for
trials before panels of judges and for appellate review of all judicial rulings. Judges
render verdicts on the basis of written evidence. Many of those who are eventually
convicted serve veiy short sentences, basically time served. In contrast, those eventually
declared innocent who have not been allowed provisional liberty often needlessly
suffer long periods of incarceration prior to acquittal. The ri^t to bail is provided
by law and recognized in practice.
In September the (x)n^ress passed legislation implementing trials at the Federal
level based on oral testimony for penal offenses. iSome provmces already have in
place oral trial procedures for penal cases. The Government has begun training and
infrastructure aevelopment for this new system of federal justice, but budj^taiy
problems and longstanding institutional interests must be overcome before the system
of trials based on oral testimony takes root.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence.—The
Government does not normally intrude into the private lives of uuuviduals, in accordance
with constitutional provisions. There continued to be credible reports about
the tapping of telephone lines by state security personnel, but these complaints diminished
somewhat in 1992.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The vigor and oj)enness of the Argentine press
increased in 1992, particularly the medial denunciation of oHicial corruption. In
late September, the International Press Society gave Argentina "good marks" for
freedom of expression. The National Editors and Publishers Association (ADEPA),
however, is more critical and continues to play an effective watch-dog role. The Congress
has taken signiiicant steps toward implementing measures that will enhance
established press freedoms.
Problem areas remain, nevertheless, particularly the use of a statute penalizing
offenses against the dignity of a public onicial. The Government invoked this statute
on several occasions against its critics. In June Congress began consideration of a
law to eliminate the crime of offending the dignity of a public official, and in mid-
July President Menem submitted a draft law tifiat would eliminate the offense, calling
it contradictor to the principles of a democratic society. ADEPA seconded the
imtiative, and on September 4 it was approved by a unanimous voice vote, without
debate, by the Chamber of Deputies. At the end of the year Senate consideration
was pending.
Prior censorship also became an issue in 1992. A portion of political humorist Tato
Bores' May 10 television program criticizing Federal Judge Maria Servini de Cubria
was censored by a court prior to airing as iryurious to the judge's honor. Judge
Servini de Cubria, who initiated the legaJ action, was accused of covering up charges
of narcotics-related money laundering by the family of President Menem's estranged
wife. Bores and the television station appealed to the court to lift the ban, arguing
that prior censorship violated the Constitution and the American Convention on
Human Rights. ADEPA called for revocation of the measure; Congress held hearings
to determine if chains should be brought against the judges who ordered the censorship.
In September the Supreme Court revoked the censorship order and allowed
the station to broadcast the deleted portion of the program.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution and laws of
Ai^entina provide for the freedom of groups and political parties to assemble and
demonstrate. Labor unions, retirees, public school teachers, and others held large
public rallies, often to protest government policies, without interference.
      c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for free exercise of religion but
gives the Roman Catholic Church a privileged position in society. Only a Roman
Catholic may be elected President and many institutions are in practice closed to
persons of other religions. Missionaries are free to proselytize in Argentina, and the
number of Protestant sects has grown. The influx of Protestant sects and their success
at proselytizing has given rise to efforts to control their activities. To date some
3,000 different sects have been registered in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
Worship, or, as educational or civic foundations, in other ministries. As a result, in
August the Catholic Church proposed tightening the current laws governing registration
of sects. A bill incorporating many of the Church's proposals went to Congress
in August.
Various manifestations of anti-Semitism continue to be a serious problem in Argentina.
Anonymous anti-Semitic pamphlets appear from time to time. In August
a local television station in Misiones province aired a program which seemed to
apologize for the Holocaust and vindicate the Hitler regime. A Jewish student in a
technical training school in La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province, was brutally
beaten by other students in May. He was forced by his tormenters to recite
the Lord's Prayer whUe swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans were pcdnted on the
school walls. Certain institutions such as the armed Forces, the courts, and the For325
eign Ministry, as well as mai^ private organizations, have few if any Jewish members.
In late 1991, police arrested a m^n trying to smuggle four bombs into the Jewish
cemetery in Ciudadela, in greater Buenos Aires. In April a group of people fired on
the ^tes of the Jewish cemetery in Bereaste^i, which in 1991 was tne scene of
anti&mitic destruction of tombs. Also in April, 15 tombs in the Jewish cemetery
in Mar del Plata were sacked. The Mar del Plata cemetery was again desecrated
in July, when three tombs were drstroved, and again in September, when a dozen
or so tombs were destroyed and swastikas were painted on them. The Government
is swift to condenm sactx actions and to order appropriate investigations, but by
yeai's end none of the perpetrators had been apprenenaed.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
International and internal travel as well as emigration remain unrestricted.
Eight Cubans, several of whom were members of a visiting dance troop,
were granted political asylum in 1992. In June the Government granted amnesty
to some 300,000 illegal residents, mostly Chileans, Paraguayans, and Bolivians. It
also announced its willingness to accept immigrants from Eastern Europe and the
former U.S.SJI., but conditioned that offer on assurances of financing irom international
organizations for resettlement costs.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
' Since September 1983, Argentina has held several national elections to choose
federal, provincial, and local ofBcials. These elections were generally free, fair, and
democratic, with universal obligatoiy sufira^. Although the TuU spectrum of politics
from left to ri^t is represented in the pohtical system, the Justicialist Party (PJ)
and the Radical Civic Union (UCR) hold the great maiority of seats in the national
Congress. A number of smaller provincial parties hold sway in several provinces,
also sending representatives to Congress.
A 1991 law passed by the Congress mandates that 30 percent of the candidates
on national, provincial, and municipal ballots be women.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude R^arding International and NongovemmenUd Investigation
(^Alleged Violations ofHuman Rights
Domestic human ri^ts organizations operate openly, although financing their activities
has become difficult for some, and the scope of their activities has begun to
change with the diminution of some kinds of human rights problems. The Government
has cooperated with requests for human rights information from all areas and
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Sex, Race, Religion, Language, or Social Status
The law prohibits discrimination based on the above criteria. Overt manifestations
of such discrimination are relatively infrequent.
Nevertheless, Argentine women and some minorities, particularly Jews and recent
immigrants from Korea and other Asian countries, sometimes face manifestations
of discrimination rooted in historical and sociocultural patterns. However, the President
of the Justicialist bloc of Deputies in the Chamber of Deputies is Jewish, as
is the newlv appointed mayor of me federal capital of Buenos Aires. Jews are well
represented in industrial, business, and professional circles. Violence against women
and sexual harassment received less media attention than in the recent past, but
remain serious problems in Argentina. However, the Grovemment undertook no initiatives
to deal with the problem beyond the appointment by President Menem of
a group of women advisors to the Cabinet in September.
Argentina's indigenous peoples, believed to number well below 100,000, are
grouped into several local and national confederations that have little political
power or influence.
The Constitution and laws allow for full participation in the nation's political
process, regardless of ethnic background or origin. There is no evidence of any systematic
attempt to abridge these ri^ts by the national or local governments, nor
by private groups or individuals.
Section 6. Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The labor movement, now concentrated in a single
General Labor Confederation (CGT), represents about one-third of the work force
and remains an important politiod and economic force. The CGTs power, however,
has waned considerably. In the 3-plu8 years of the Menem Government through December
1992 the CGT staged only one general woric stoppage, despite considerable
unhappiness over concrete issues such as wages, and social security reform. This
forbearance was due in part to the ideological affinity of the CGT for the ruling
Justicialist party, and in part to labor's recognition that the Government's economic
reform program is producing tangible, positive results.
Unions have the ri^t to strike, subject to compulsory conciliation and arbitration
by the Labor Ministry. Some unions, particularly the metallurgical workers, teachers
and bank woikers, exercised that right frequently in 1992 with little or no official
Trade unions are free to associate internationally, and many Argentine worker organizations
are active in international trade union groups.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Federal labor law and regulations
apply uniform^ throughout the country. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited
by law, and well-developed mechanisms are in place and functioning to resolve
complaints. Some provinces provide rights and obligations that go beyond those provided
by federal law. Labor and mana^ment are legally subject to a binding coUective
bargaining process which sets basic wage levels on an industry-wide basis. The
State's role in this process is now limited to ratifying these agreements to give them
legal status.
On another front, the Government proposed, but at year's end had not sent to
Congress, legislation centralizing government control over payroll deductions for
union social welfare fiinds and allowing union members free choice in selecting
health care programs from among existing welfare funds and private health care
maintenance plans. The authors of the proposal justify it in the light of the inability
of many union-controlled funds to provide adequate health care to their members
for a complex set of reasons dating back to the period during which the unions and
the welfare liinds were quashed by the military government of 1976-83. They also
defend the proposal in terms of providing free choice to union members, part of the
philosophy of deregulation and privatization of the economy. The CGT, reflecting almost
universal union repudiation of the proposal, managed to force the Government
to retract many of the points contemplated in the reform, but the issue is still the
object of intense debate.
There are no officially designated export processing zones in Argentina.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is illegal
and is not known to be practiced.
d. Minimum Age for the Employment of Children.—Emplojrment of children under
14 years of age, except within the family, is prohibited. Minors aged 14 and 15 may
work in restricted types of employment, but not more than 6 hours a day or 35
hours a week. The same law applies to minors 16 to 18 years of age, althou^ exceptions
are allowed. Violators are tried before appropriate courts, but due to the reduction
in most families' earning power, these restrictions are probably honored more
in the breach than in the observance.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The ofiicial minimum ws^e falls well below the
amount required to support a family of four, which recent official estimates put at
about $12,000 a year. Tne maximum work day is eight hours; the work week is 48
hours. Premiums are paid for work beyond those limits, which is increasingly the
case as workers seek to augment inadequate basic salaries by undertaking overtime
work. Rules governing vacations and maternity and sick leave are comparable to or
better than those that prevail in western industrialized nations, and are generally
Federally-legislated occupational health and safety standards are also comparable
to those of inmistrialized nations, but the federal Government and many provincial
governments lack the human and economic resources to enforce these standards, despite
union vigilance against violations. As a result industrial pollution has become
an increasingly serious problem and worker lawsuits provoked by on the job ii^uries
and job-related disability have become a major industry. A large number of people,
including children, are employed in small, owner-operated enterprises where it is
difilcult Tor the Government to enforce workers' rights and health and safety standards.