The Complex Political Math of Genocide

Argentina’s history with ‘Desaparecidos’ and the problem of politicizing human rights.

Taru Anniina Liikanen
7 min readMay 26, 2022


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Most conflicts and dictatorships tend to be divisive long after they’ve ended. They leave scars in society that seem impossible to overcome for decades.

Those wounds affect the way we see our shared history who we claim is the good or bad guy, and what information we accept as valid. We may think facts are facts, but facts are always seen through a lens that’s colored by our views and exploited by politicians.

If the facts don’t match on two sides of the political debate, is it denialism or purely different scientific criteria? And how do you build a future if the basic facts are a matter of controversy?

That might sound very American, but it’s a problem present-day Argentina is battling.

How Big Is a Genocide?

Argentina suffered an atrocious military dictatorship in the ’70s and early ‘80s. Now, to be fair, there were many atrocious dictatorships here in the last century. Still, the last one, from 1976 to 1983, is remembered as the worst because of the sheer scale and intent of the terror it inflicted on the people of Argentina.

Under the guise of bringing peace back to the streets in the middle of a wave of guerrilla and paramilitary violence, the ruling military Junta — supported by the United States through Operation Condor — tortured and murdered thousands of people and got rid of the bodies.

Military “task groups” appeared in the middle of the night in deep green Ford Falcons and abducted people from their homes or on the street. Thousands of innocent people, in many cases young students, disappeared from their homes, never to be heard from again.

Many times, their only crime was studying the wrong degree, having the wrong friends or looking the part. Something as trivial as having long hair and a beard could make you seem Marxist and turn you into a target.

Oh, and if the abducted were pregnant women, they were forced to give birth in captivity and their children were stolen. This became such a common practice that human rights organizations are still finding those



Taru Anniina Liikanen

Finnish by birth, porteña at heart. Recovering political ghostwriter and comedian. Bad jokes my own.