For two days in December 2012, I was given unprecedented access to the Malvinas veteran’s protest encampment in Plaza de May, Buenos Aires. The only western photojournalist to have ever been allowed inside their circle, it was an honor to share time and meals and mate with these brave war veterans as they continue to agitate for the benefits which are rightfully theres. My prayers are still with them and I hope Kirchner and her government does the right thing soon.
The wind swept up the mountain and over the troops who were waiting in the dark for the final British attack. If the Brits crashed through the gun emplacements, the war would be over soon. If the Argentine line of defense held, the war would still be over, but not as quickly.
As often happens in military battles, fat-headed generals set behind desks hundreds of miles away while the “grunt,” the soldier in the field is left to do the fighting, and the dying.
Unscathed by battle, ego-driven generals planned the ill-fated invasion of the Malvinas Islands, known as the Falklands, to the rest of the world. The military junta which had been in place since 1976 had taken its toll on the South American country. Driven into recession and aware that tens of thousands had “disappeared,” angry Argentines gathered outside of the Pink House in Plaza de Mayo to demand change.
The generals, huddled around dimly lit plotting boards thought they had found the answer. Invade the Malvinas and pride in Argentina would be restored. The brass that cooked up this scheme were no more prepared for their psychotic decision than were the men on the island. Fighting for a cause many did not believe in, the men remained ready to face deadly fire simply because their generals ordered them.
Today, Malvinas war veterans still fight, but they don’t fight in the Falklands. They fight in Plaza de Mayo, the same town square where hundreds of thousands had called on the military junta to do something, to bring change.
Argentina’s current government, led by President Cristina Kirchner, refuses to acknowledge the sacrifice the Malvinas veterans made. Busy stealing millions of dollars from the countries coffers, a fact documented on state television, Kirchner had also refused to honor the commitment to benefits for the veterans.
The Malvinas veterans have been maintaining a round-the-clock vigil for over four years now. No one from the Pink House or the Defense Ministry has had the “cojones” to come down from their ivory towers and speak with the men who would have given their life for their county.
It’s as though Kirchner and her government, want the ill-fated defeat – and anything connected to the defeat – as far away from them as possible.
The veterans continue to pay the price for ego-centric, money-driven politicians.
Some things never change.
Jerry Nelson is an American freelance documentary photographer. His images have been seen by millions around the world. On assignment now in Argentina, Jerry is always interested in discussing future work opportunities. Contact him today.